Ellen Clapsaddle “The Army and Navy Forever!”

Ellen Clapsaddle “The Army and Navy Forever!”

As Memorial Day approaches, many of us will make plans to cookout with friends and family, go to the beach, or just enjoy the time off. I whole heartily encourage you, however, to take a few moments to reflect on those individuals who have willingly and selflessly protected the freedom we enjoy today yet often take for granted.

On February 22, 2013, I had the honor of attending a ceremony in Norfolk, VA celebrating the retirement of Colonel Jeff Waechter from the United States Air Force. Col. Waechter is a soldier, pilot and educator whose passion for finding new and innovative ways to educate military students has produced awesome results at the Joint Forces Staff College.

If you have never attended a full military ceremony, you truly are missing something special. The Joint Forces Staff College serves all branches of the military so the ceremony included representatives and traditions from all the branches, not just the Air Force where Col. Waechter served dutifully. Col. Waechter was presented with his retirement flag as the poem by SMSgt Don S. Miller USAF (Ret.) entitled My Name is Old Glory was read aloud.

As the flag was passed from one person to the next, each proudly representing their individual branch, I was flooded with emotion. Watching their purposeful and precise movements and the honor and respect with which they handled the flag was overwhelming. Even now as I am writing this, those overwhelming emotions that I first experienced that day in February have come flooding back, as moving and vivid today as they were then.

Listening to Col. Waechter give his farewell speech, I couldn’t help but see how passionate he is about the business of educating and how I think many individuals in the business of education have lost their passion.

Here’s the link for Col Waechter’s Retirement Program.

When I think about the young men and women who fearlessly and freely fight for the freedoms we enjoy, some of whom were told to consider military service because they were not “college material,” I am reminded that with freedom comes choice. These young men and women are defending our right to choose to accept an educational system that was once the envy of the world, but is now lagging behind in rank and quality. I am troubled that we squander the stalwart protection of the heroic men and women in the armed forces because we have chosen to be mediocre.

Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Poole

Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Poole

I challenge you to take time this Memorial Day to reflect on those men and women who willingly make unimaginable sacrifices, devoting their lives to the protection of our country, and find your passion for education. At different times in our lives, we have all been a son or a daughter, a child or an adult, a student or a teacher. Today is the day to be a teacher. Let your passion teach our students that we will no longer choose mediocre.

They deserve it.

Leave a Reply