During our Veteran's Day assembly this morning the most beautiful thing occurred: the Mixed Chorus sang the National Anthem--which was beautiful indeed--and the Veterans who were in attendance started singing with them.
The men and women of the Armed Forces sang. Many were in their uniforms from when they served or are still serving. Some were bent over with age, but still standing as proudly as they could, arthritic hands folded gently over their hearts. Still others held their caps over their hearts in slightly shaky hands. Others saluted as smartly as they could, and somehow, despite their ages or infirmities, held that salute without trembling until the very end of the song.
Their voices, though, lifted in tribute to the nation they'd served with pride, were strong and true. Even in "the rocket's red glare" part, where young voices sometimes have problems reaching those higher notes, these Veterans sang with zeal. It was unexpected, as they weren't supposed to be singing along. The choir was doing a special number honoring them. But still, they sang.
And then it happened. The beautiful thing. The choir, for dynamic effect, had built pauses into the accapella song near the end; however, the Veterans, not knowing this, sang the final phrases out boldly into the stillness as a rich counterpoint to the choir's harmonies, causing an echo when the choir sang the same words just seconds later.
"For the Land of the Free..... and the Home of the Brave...."
"For the Land of the Free".... and the Home of the Brave...."
The older voices of the Veterans, grave with emotion and dignity and age, echoed by the young voices of the choir, filled with hope and vigor and youth, created an epiphany that filled my eyes with tears. Here was the proper order of things--the elders showing the youth how to be patriotic, with gusto and full voice.
So, thank you, Veterans, for all you have done for us in the past, and for what you are still doing for us today. You teach us how to be proud to be Americans in this land of the free and home of the brave. Our lesson for today: sing out strong and proud with our hearts united, and let those who come behind us echo the passion and purpose that makes this nation great.