Gaining a Link To a U.S. Marine

Young people don’t know enough about our nation’s history, we adults sometimes worry. Especially, they do not understand the sacrifices made by those who serve us in uniform, we complain.

Don’t mention that to fourth graders at Bellaire Elementary School. They understand — possibly more than many adults — what it takes to become a United States Marine.

Part of our coverage of Veterans Day this year was a story abut the fourth-graders and Marine Tyler West. The young man attended Bellaire Elementary, going on to graduate from Bellaire High School in 2015.

West decided he wanted to serve our country as a Marine. “I wanted a challenge in life … At the same time, I wanted to give back to the community,” he explained last week.

There are challenges and there is Marine boot camp. Only the very best armed forces recruits make it through. So when Tyler reported for basic training at Parris Island, S.C., he was facing an extreme challenge.

He had a secret weapon we venture to say was unique among his fellow trainees.

Fourth-grade students at Bellaire Elementary adopted West as a pen pal. Throughout basic training, he received many letters from the youngsters, asking him questions and encouraging him to persevere.

Last week, West visited the school to meet with members of his backup team and other students. “They don’t know what you’re going through, but they wanted to help,” he told our reporter. “Every letter I got from home helped so much.”

Good for fourth-grade teacher Marci Quirk, who implemented the idea of students writing to West. And good for the students.

For the rest of their lives, these youngsters will have a better knowledge of people who serve in uniform. They will have a very personal link to a U.S. Marine. Both they and our nation will be better off for their experience.

So will West, of course.

Teaching the facts of American history in our schools is important. But so are activities that provide students with personal links to our heritage and current events.

Let us hope, then, that more educators come up with ideas like Quirk’s. In making that happen, school principals and other administrators should provide the necessary flexibility.

It’s important.

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