High School Military Schools Instill American Pride
When I married my husband in 1994, he was in the Air Force. I went to work as a civilian on an Air Force base in 1997, and I loved every moment. The people were proud—not of themselves, but of their country. More importantly, they loved their country. It showed in every single thing that they did.
Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” was all the rage back then. We had a couple of annual awards ceremonies and a couple of retirements during my two years there, and at every event, that song played. My own heart nearly burst with pride when we would get to the refrain of “…and I’d gladly stand up, next to you to defend her still today…” When we sang “stand up”—because by then everyone was singing along—everyone in the room stood up. Everyone. Military, civilian, it didn’t matter. We all stood.
Another wave of patriotism swept the country after the 9/11 attacks. Yellow ribbons and American flags adorned town squares, doors, balconies, storefronts…we were devastated by the attacks, but we were not broken. We were united.
Now, more than ten years later, government bailouts, a housing market crash, and a controversial health care reform bill seem to have divided us once again. This spring, I was saddened to note the lack of American pride as I watched a flag go by during a parade and realized I was the only one standing with my hand over my heart. Then I realized it might not be a lack of pride. It might be a lack of knowledge. In that moment, I breathed a prayer of thanks that high school military schools like Randolph-Macon Academy exist.
Many of the students attending one of the 40+ military schools in the United States today will not go on into the military. At R-MA, only about 10%-15% of each graduating class pursues a military career, whether officer or enlisted. That’s because the goal of most high school military schools is to prepare students for college. And the goal of the Air Force JROTC program is to teach citizenship and leadership skills.
That “citizenship” includes some important protocols, like how to treat the American flag. Students learn things their peers have never heard of, things their parents and many of us have forgotten, such as the fact that when a flag passes in a parade, military members and veterans are to salute, and civilians are to place their hands over their hearts or remove their hats and place their hat at their left shoulder. Students learn that the flag is to be lit when it is flown at night. The flag is not to be part of a costume or athletic uniform, or a decoration, or an advertisement…information that is in the United States Code; information that has long been forgotten.
Many of the details of flag protocol are concepts that most people would not have to worry about. Many high school military school students may not remember all they’ve learned about it, because there are so many guidelines that will not apply to them until later in life. But if they at least remember to stand and put their hands over their hearts when the flag goes by, then at least something will be preserved: a piece of pride in America.
God bless the USA.