Op-Ed: A Rededication to Veterans Day to Recognize Service and Sacrifice

James A. Crisfield | September 11, 2014 | Opinion
In Millburn school district, students will be learning the real meaning and intent of a holiday that is too often neglected

James Crisfield
In public education today, it’s easy to get distracted from things that really matter. The airwaves are flooded with Common Core this or PARCC that, while educators in New Jersey’s public schools try desperately to keep their eyes on the prize and on what matters. We try to focus on what we know works with regard to teaching and learning, student well-being, and character education and leave the rest for other people, elsewhere.

In the Millburn schools this year, we are going to take that “character education” piece and expand it to include something that we feel really matters. That is, we are going to rededicate ourselves to the meaning and intent of Veterans Day. It goes without saying that this is a worthwhile cause, and our teachers and students are putting together some awesome activities and events that will show how we feel about the men and women who have served (and continue to serve) this country bravely and selflessly.

This is not (just) about raising funds for worthwhile causes that help veterans. It’s that and much more. It’s about raising awareness of the sacrifices veterans made while serving (and as importantly, that they still make today), and fostering an appreciation in our students for the service of our veterans. In fact, we’re actually extending this concept to Patriot Day this year, to honor the service of first-responders. We don’t have to go that far back in our region’s history to find the ultimate example of this, and our schools will never forget that, either.

In fact, just this past Monday, our middle-school students decorated the entire front lawn of the school with American flags to symbolize our recognition of the meaning (and solemnity) of this week. Millburn High School has a fledgling student club dedicated to helping veterans and raising awareness, and this ranges from working with faculty members to inject relevant exercises into existing curriculum plans during the week of November 11 to reaching out to organizations like the East Orange VA Crisis Center for ways to get involved. This is community service in action, not just thought. And even our elementary students get involved — we have in the past had Skype sessions with soldiers across the globe, in harm’s way, and our students were perfect citizens and friends as they listened, asked questions, and thanked the people they saw “live.”

Millburn is joining many other New Jersey school districts that do some really great and meaningful things when it comes to recognizing veterans and thanking them for their service. I challenge all residents to follow the lead of the schools in your community and join us in rededicating ourselves to the meaning and intent of Veterans Day. You will help us model for our students what it means to be good people and to care about others, and we’ll all do something nice and heartfelt for a well-deserving group of our fellow citizens.