Salute to Patriots
What is Salute to Patriots & Military Signing Day?
Although that sounds like two different programs, they are one project with a public and private connection.
The public connection has students electing to serve their country recognized in front of their school, similar to how athletes are recognized when they sign on to a sports team. In the same fashion that students who choose to play sports are encouraged by their peers, so are the students who choose military service as they embark on an adventure where their talents make a difference in defending the freedoms of all Americans.
The private portion of the program has students recognized at a dinner where their family is introduced to a support network and traditions unique to the branch of military service the student elects to serve in. At each table, we present the student and their parent to another parent who has a child serving in the same military branch of service as the student at the table, a veteran from the same branch of service, and a current military member serving in the same branch of service as the students. The goal is to introduce the family to some traditions unique to the branch of service and local connections for the family so that a support network is created while the student serves away from home. The military member in uniform who sits at the table answers current realities in service. At the same time, the veteran provides a perspective on how military service shaped their opportunities after military service. The military parent offers perspective on the challenges of being separated from their loved one and serves as a sounding board for the new parent to leverage while their child prepares to go and serve in the military.
The program facilitates community building by creating space where the civilian community shows its support of the students as they prepare to go serve their country through military service and the military community has the opportunity to welcome its new members. Elected officials, educators, and business leaders line up to shake every student’s hand as their name is called and are recognized on stage and as they exit the stage are welcomed by all veterans and uniformed military personnel lined up prepared to shake their hand and welcome them to their new community. The symbolic gesture of crossing from one space into another has helped bridge the civilian and military communities.
The program has made a big difference in the lives of students, parents, veterans, and current serving military personnel. All the participants are afforded the opportunity to encourage each other and an opportunity to have their perspectives heard. Everyone learns from each other and finds a community that understands their needs.
The program has grown beyond the boundaries of the district and now has community members from around the state asking for assistance in developing a similar program in other communities. I am humbled by the outpouring of support found around the state, and I am honored to have the opportunity to help other communities create programs that make a positive impact on the lives of their citizens.