A memorable Memorial Day

Published 7:51 pm Monday, May 26, 2014

Most students at Suffolk’s public schools probably didn’t appreciate having to go to school yesterday to make up for a day missed to snow.

Yesterday was Memorial Day, and a good many patriotic Americans wouldn’t have appreciated it being used as a school makeup day, either.

Among those opposed to the idea were members of the Norman R. Matthews Post 57 of the American Legion in Suffolk, whose commander, Joe Garlitz, wrote a letter to the editor on their behalf after the School Board made the call.

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The holiday should be kept sacred, Garlitz wrote, and the board had concluded that sparing Saturdays or a longer school year was “more relevant and convenient than recognizing the military service of deceased fellow citizens, family members and friends.”

He suggested that if students had to go to school on Memorial Day, there should have been a mandatory field trip to Cedar Hill Cemetery or the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery for one of the services.

I concur with Cmdr. Garlitz entirely.

As many of you would be aware, I’m not American. In my native Australia, the closest thing to Memorial Day is Anzac Day, which commemorates the amphibious landing of troops with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (hence the name) at Gallipoli during World War I.

For schools to operate during Anzac Day would be outside the realm of possibility. It would be beyond an uproar. But do most children attend or participate in Anzac services, or honor the fallen and veterans in any other way?

A lot do, but too many — probably the majority — do not. And I’d hazard to say it’s the same thing here for Memorial Day.

Busing kids to one of the official services would have been a great idea. But at the same time, by going to school yesterday, more Suffolk kids did more to commemorate Memorial Day and learned more about what it means than they would have by not going to school.

This is according to the plans of principals and teachers, reported by the News-Herald on Thursday. Northern Shores Elementary School was even planning its own patriotic parade down Respass Beach Road.

Suffolk public school students were visited at school by servicemen and -women, sang patriotic songs, analyzed classic American poetry and planted a tree in honor of the holiday. What would most of them have done otherwise? Take your pick.

By avoiding Saturdays, the School Board shirked what would have been an unpopular decision. Scheduling makeup Saturdays as early in the year as possible would have made much more sense academically, and sparing Memorial Day would have been more respectful.

As it stands, at least, considerably fewer Suffolk kids spent Memorial Day doing things that had absolutely nothing to do with Memorial Day.