Tahlequah Daily Press

November 15, 2013

A teaching opportunity lost


TAHLEQUAH — Editor, Daily Press:

This Veterans Day, a teaching opportunity was lost, all over a pair of combat boots worn by a soldier who gave his all, who died while serving his country. [It was] an opportunity to remind people a war is still going on and young men and women are, at this very moment, fighting and dying, missing home and family and parades, even [parades held] in their honor.

Monday, an opportunity to teach [was lost] each time someone noticed a young man in a band uniform marching in combat boots. “I’m honoring my uncle who served this great nation.”  “I’m walking in his boots on this day of remembrance.” [The opportunity was lost] each time the boots [could have been] noticed, an opportunity for a young man to speak his uncle’s name out loud and tell a bit of his story.  An opportunity [was] lost to tell the world that someone loved had died, that all those who came before him and those that served with him and those that serve at this very moment were the focus of this parade.

It wasn’t about the band. The band was there to play some sweet tune to remind those veterans they had not been forgotten: a tune that brought back a memory, a tune that honored this great land. The band wasn’t the focus, the veterans were the honored guests. [The band was there to play] music to brighten [the veterans’] day, and ease the painful memories.

How many of the kids marching in the band gave thought to those veterans – the old guys with the funny pins and military caps; the young men in uniform; the wives and mothers with badges and pins and maybe their child’s face on a shirt; the young marine who had been wounded and had trouble walking? Did those young men and women marching in the band know why they were even there? For a grade? For a day out of school? So, one young man was left behind, unable to march, because he was wearing the combat boots last worn by someone he loved: the combat boots of a soldier whose life ended too soon. The boots of a son, brother, uncle and friend. The boots that could tell a story.

Veterans Day is a day to honor all who served, whether living or dead, yet one young man, and one mother were left behind crying in the car because combat boots can’t be worn in a parade honoring combat heroes. The dress code [was] more important than the event. It was said, “If I do it for one, I’d have to do it for all.” What could be more wonderful than an entire band, each wearing something to honor those who served? The band wears Santa hats for the Christmas parade.

What have we done? We have turned a blind eye to the sacrifices made at this very minute. We “forget” those at war, away from home and family, protecting our freedoms. We forget those who put on those boots every day at home and overseas. We forget the sacrifices made by them and by their families every day. We forget what this parade is for. We forget the families of those who have died.

An opportunity was lost today. A young man and a pair of worn combat boots could have made this the day of honor it was set aside for, to teach and to not forget those who serve. Instead, it was a day full of a mother’s bitter tears and a young man’s broken heart.

Debra Lafon