Teaching Kids Patriotism and Respect for Our Military

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As a foster parent, I had the privilege of having a 4-year-old boy with me over the 4th of July holiday.  I say “privilege” because it truly was amazing being able to teach a young child about our country and why we celebrate that day.  He was so eager to learn.  We talked about the flag and how important and symbolic it was.  I also taught him the pledge of allegiance, which he picked up quickly.  One day I will never forget is when he spotted a flag in the middle of a giant antique store while we shopped.  He immediately yelled, “Flag!” and put his hand over his chest.  I swiftly followed suit and let him lead us in the pledge of allegiance.  It was adorable, and we got some motherly, heartfelt smiles cast in our direction as well.  He got it.  He understood.

As a high school teacher, sometimes I see the opposite, and it breaks my heart.  It seems like every year I have those few students that don’t say the pledge of allegiance every morning.  Most will stand without prompting, but some don’t even put their hand over their heart let alone at least pretend to mouth the words.  It’s dis-heartening to say the least.  Also, from having conversations with them and hearing them talk, I found that some don’t understand how you can not support the war but still support our soldiers who are fighting in it.  They feel like if we’re in a war and the economy is bad and things aren’t exactly the way they want them, then our country isn’t as awesome as everyone says it is.  There is often no inherent awe and respect for our great nation.

So what can we do to teach our kids to respect their own country and the service men and women who helped and are helping make it what it is today?  Modeling and explaining.  We can’t just tell them to salute the flag or respect the military.  They won’t listen.  This is a generation that is very independent and wants everything to be justified to them.  “Why do I have to do this?”  “Why is this so important?”  “What I can I just get by with?”  We need to model to them how to show respect, and then we need to explain to them why it’s so important.  They need to see the value in it.

Explaining the importance of patriotism and respect was one thing that our school’s legend, Mr. Tom Colley, never had a problem with.  He taught World History for us as long as anyone can remember, and he was also a veteran.  I guarantee you, every one of his students came out of his class with not only a love of history, but also a reverent respect for our military and country.  He taught them what it meant to be a true patriotic American – the “old-school” way.  Sadly, he’s retiring this year.  Words cannot express how much he will be missed.  I only hope we can carry his torch after he’s gone by teaching our youth the way he did.

So what do you all think?  What are your thoughts on young people and patriotism or respect for our military? What ideas do you have for helping them become the respectful, patriotic citizens we all want them to be?

(WRITING A COMMENT ENTERS YOU TO WIN A FREE COPY OF SHADOW EYES!  Winner announced Tuesday.  Be sure to include in your comment your email so I can get a hold of you if you win.  ALSO, IF YOU WANT TWO CHANCES TO WIN, FOLLOW MY BLOG FOR THE CONTEST THAT ENDS AT THE END OF MAY FOR THE SAME PRIZE!)



~ by Dusty Crabtree - Author of Shadow Eyes on May 25, 2012.

26 Responses to “Teaching Kids Patriotism and Respect for Our Military”

  1. I agree that most kids don’t “get it” nowadays, but the same is true for many adults as well. I also agree that it’s something you have to teach AND model. When I worked in school districts I sometimes saw WWII veterans invited to speak on Veterans Day to the whole student body. The speakers knew of what they spoke. They had been in the trenches; they had been blessed with the bittersweet yet powerful, eyes wide-open understanding of the preciousness of their own country. Kids are sharp. They can spot a phoney or even someone who is merely parroting patriotism they have been taught themselves. But it’s hard to dismiss the real deal. Sadly there are so very few WWII vets still with us, but veterans from other wars more recent are still plentiful. Use them, honor them in this way. It blesses both the speaker and the listeners.

  2. I agree with you completely. I think all the teachers need the courage to stand up for their convictions. The kids are saying what the hear in some homes by their parents, who are still rebeling. And why, who are they rebeling against? I don’t think they know anymore, it has become a way of life. What they don’t realize they are hurting their kids and their kids friends by taking away the hope we all need. Coach Colley will be greatly missed, he was one man the boys, especially could look up to.

  3. We really have some awesome Veteran’s Day assemblies at our school where they kids do show respect. I agree they need as much exposure to “the real deal” as possible. 🙂

  4. I spell it out pretty clearly for my son. I hale from a long military background in my family. This young man is my only child, but he wants to join up. It scares me and makes me proud all rolled into one. So, all of our young are not lost, or clueless. Some of them want to give back–and his friend in service, passed form this world not long ago at the age of 22. We honor and remember him. Thanks for this article, and your Shadow Eyes is on my list of want to reads!

    • Cool! Well, maybe you’ll win! I didn’t want to sound too pessimistic. I know there are plenty of kids our there who really “get it.” We actually even have a club in our school called S.O.S. (supporting our soldiers). 🙂

  5. Patriotism is beautiful. I love your post, Dusty. 🙂

  6. This is certainly something that should be taught more to kids when they are young. I love doing things with the Elks and opening up some eyes to our veterans.

  7. My grandfathers fought in WWII. Each generation becomes a step further removed from the reality and the sacrifice they made, and I do worry that without this personal understanding we lose appreciation and take too much for granted. On the positive side, my son is a Boy Scout, and the Scouts do a great job of teaching the boys respect for the flag and the Pledge.

  8. My husband sings in the OK Chorale here in OKC. They do an annual show of patriotic songs on Memorial Day out at the Kingfisher cemetery in honor of their veterans. I think this kind of thing is inspiring and is a good example of how to honor our vets, however, in and of itself I don’t think it’s enough to really educate the youth. For one thing, few youth are out at the cemetery to hear such programs, and for another, while they may enjoy the music, I fear they probably still just don’t get the whole idea.

  9. I’ve traveled all over the world and I’d say Americans are the most patriotic citizens of all countries I’ve visited.

  10. Hi Dusty! I work with a lot of teens and tweens too, and one thing I try to tell them is that serving our country can include things other than being in the military. It can be something as simple as spending time with an elderly person in a retirement community or reading with a child who at the elementary school. I explain that all these aspects of service are what helps to make our country something we are proud to call America. I’d love to win a copy of your book. I haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet!

  11. Because our son was an only child we felt it was important for him to have a couple of things that were required of his free time, one was exercise and participating in some sort of sport or activity he would enjoy regularly and the other was participate in a community service activity again finding one that he enjoys. I think these have given him the perspective of our freedoms and an appreciation for what our service people have given to us. For years he was in the Civil Air Patrol and now is in college hoping to become an Army doctor. I am so grateful for our freedoms and thank you for participating in this very thought provoking hop. BTW Shadow Eyes looks awesome!

  12. I love how you are teaching the next generation respect. Well done, Dusty.

  13. This is the first time that I have been to your blog. LOVE the pisture on the masthead. Lovely.
    catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

  14. Modeling patriotism is the best way to teach it. Wishing you a happy Memorial Day.

  15. I have been struggling with the same here in my classroom of 5th graders. I have many that complain that they have to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day. I am creating a lesson plan on respecting the flag and the symbolism it holds to this amazing country they live in. I am also looking for guest speakers to come talk to them that are in the Military or National Guard and discuss what the word RESPECT means and to take pride in all they do- not the bare minimum, but to rise to the exceptional. I am hoping to inspire my students to be thankful for what they have- even though most are from low-income families. They live in a country rich in freedom, liberty, and pride. Any other suggestions on how to carry this out would be awesome!

    • That sounds awesome! I’m not sure with 5th graders where their minds are exactly, but what you have planned so far sounds great. Respect is such a dwindling term it seems these days in our culture. Any way you can relate it to what’s relevant and important in their young minds is good – maybe ask them about ways they like to be shown respect (addressed by name, people being polite to them, knocking before entering room). You could also do a project where they have to interview an elderly person (grandparent or other) about what respect means to them. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by my blog and good luck!

  16. Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging
    on sites I stumbleupon every day. It will always be useful to read content from other writers and use a little
    something from other web sites.

  17. I love the military my grand farther was in the army he fought in Berling. I have many friends who are Navy Seals and in the marines. I wake every day knowing that they are protecting us. Thank you our service men and woman

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