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Helping Youth Understand the Meaning of Memorial Day - 2003-05-26


Memorial Day in the United States features ceremonies both large and small. But some fear the meaning of the day has become lost, that the day off from work or school obscures the true meaning of the day. Chris Simkins now, on an educational program that tries to remind young people what Memorial Day is really about.

They came to salute American military men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in wars past and present. But this ceremony at Washington, D.C’s Freedom Plaza is also about educating young people about the meaning and spirit of Memorial Day.

Carmella LaSpada is executive director of the White House Commission on Remembrance. She says Memorial Day has lost some of its meaning among young people. Now she is leading efforts to teach children the importance of the sacrifices made for their freedoms.

CARMELLA LASPADA, WHITE HOUSE4 COMMISSION ON REMEMBRANCE
“The children, they only know that people died for their freedom, unfortunately, during operation Enduring Freedom (in Afghanistan) and operation Iraqi Freedom. They think Memorial Day is Memorial Day for those people alone. They do not realize more than one million people since 1775 have died for our freedom and explain to them yes they have died and remember them but remember all of those who have died throughout the year.”

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Otis Elam is teaching these high school students the importance of leadership. They are a part of the U.S. Army’s junior training program that teaches high school students to excel in life, stay in school and graduate.

Colonel Elam also talks to them about his military service in Vietnam and the sacrifices many brave Americans made to secure freedoms for millions of others.

OTIS ELAM, JR, ROTC INSTRUCTOR
“Many of our youngsters don’t understand the value and the things we military people have gone through. Therefore, not only me but other retired military, are teaching junior ROTC or doing other things in the community to instill in young people how important it is to honor veterans and service members as to what they have done for this country and for our people in this country.”

These are some of the cadets that are taking part in the junior training program. They want to do their part to help teach others their age about the importance of Memorial Day.

CHUTTNEY CASSAN, JUNIOR ROTC CADET
“I really do feel it is important to celebrate Memorial Day not only for the past because it could have been any of their relatives or their ancestors who have fought in so many wars. But even towards the future. Like today, with the war in Iraq, there are a lot of people who have family over there. I feel that if you don’t at least come out and try to honor those who died for you to protect this country and who are the real patriots then I think you are being really selfish.”

TRICIA MEDINA, JUNIOR ROTC CADET
“I think it is really important because these are the people who did all they could for everybody to have a free community and to have their freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, JUNIOR ROTC CADET
Memorial Day should be explained to the younger generation. They should understand how important it is to know that the men and woman who serve the country have died and put their life on the line to protect these freedoms and liberties that a lot of people might take for granted.”

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