Grizzell and Sells Students Make an Impact in D.C.

Dear Sirs!
I wish to relate an encounter we recently had with Dublin, Ohio, 8
th graders in Washington DC and extend a thank you to all the students we met.
As backdrop I would like to explain who we are and why we went to Washington DC in October 2013.
My father is a WW II combat veteran who served in the south Pacific as a Navy gunner on an Avenger Torpedo plane and retired with 20 years in the Navy. My oldest brother is a combat veteran having served a year in Vietnam. I am an Iraqi combat veteran and retired from the Army Reserves with 38 years of service to include 8 months in Croatia in support of the Bosnia mission and 1 year in Iraq from March 2003 to March 2004. We also have a younger brother who spent 3 years in the Army with the 82
nd Airborne, but between wars.
My dad and oldest brother thought about sending dad on an Honor Flight to the WW II Memorial in DC, but having just turned 90 he wasn’t real excited about taking a one day trip. My brother decided to drive him there so I volunteered to go and we packed up my brother’s van and we headed for DC from Kansas where we all live. On the way we stopped in Philadelphia to see our cousin, dad’s 80 year old nephew, for a couple of days and we decided to take him to DC also. He was a Navy pilot during the Korean War.
Now I come to the heart of this letter. We four combat veterans were leaving the Korean Memorial, but were blocked by a group of young people on tour getting a group photo. We could have used a different path out, but chose to stand and wait. While we were waiting an adult who I believe was a teacher apologized for holding us up. We explained that it was no problem and started talking to the teacher. Then, out of nowhere a young man came up to my dad, shook his hand and thanked him for his service. This totally unexpected gesture by this young man completely took us by surprise. Then he shook all our hands and thanked each of us for our service.

Then we started to talk to some of the other students in the group and they smiled, acted shy, and were completely respectful. This isn’t what we expect from our young people in this day and age. As we were leaving I caught up to another teacher and asked her who they were and she said 8th Graders from Sells Middle School in Dublin, Ohio. I usually cannot remember a name, but that name I have remembered. Later we all commented that Sells Middle School in Dublin, Ohio, must be doing something right because the students seemed to understand what “it’s” all about.

In comparison I’ll share another encounter we had just experienced at the Vietnam Memorial. We were standing at the statue of the three Soldiers representing that war and nearby were a group of students from another school. All four of us wore veteran’s hats depicting our service. My dad had WW II Veteran on his and my brother had Vietnam Veteran on his hat. An adult was explaining to the students what they were going to see as they walked around (basically monuments). The adult finished speaking and my dad pointed at my brother and said that here is a “real” Vietnam Veteran. This comment was ignored so I pointed at my dad and said here is a WW II Veteran. This also was ignored so we walked on over to the Wall shaking our heads. Not that we were ignored, but that they just didn’t seem to understand that they had an opportunity to talk to living, breathing, talking history and didn’t seem to care. You can see why we were so impressed with the Sells students.

Later at the WW II Memorial we encountered two other groups of 8th grade students at two different times. One group came in and a few students looked around, but most just sat down and waited until it was time to leave. I tried talking to a few of them, but they didn’t seem very interested in talking so I let it be. I don’t remember where they were from, but it wasn’t Ohio. They soon left without showing much interest in what they were looking at, or at least that is the impression I got.

The second group came in the Memorial and looked around and as they walked by the four of us sitting in a line on a bench, I started talking to a few of the students. They were friendly and talkative so I told them they should go visit with my father which they did. Before long they were getting pictures with us and shaking our hands and thanking us for our service so I took a good look at their name tags and saw Grizzell and Dublin, Ohio. They explained that Sells and Grizzell were both visiting DC. Several more Grizzell students came over and talked to us about their relatives’ service and what they planned to do in the future and took many pictures before they left the Memorial. About 5 or 10 minutes later the Grizzell students returned and walked down our line shaking our hands, thanking each of us for our service, and exclaiming how “awesome” we were. They started with dad and went right down the line. I’m not sure if every student from Grizzell shook our hands, but it sure seemed like it. I also don’t know who got them to do that, but after our two encounters with Dublin Middle School students I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the students didn’t do it on their own.

It doesn’t take much to understand that one outstanding group of students from a school district is the product of a teacher or how a school’s administration sets policy. However, two groups from two different “Middle Schools” is the product of the district.

Whatever the case, Dublin, Ohio, is doing something RIGHT and we all came away with the impression that this country just might have a future after all.
Thank You!
Steve Comstock

LTC
United States Army (Retired)

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