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And they're thanking US?

July 8, 2011 - Betsy Bethel
I had the good fortune to be able to act on the sentiments expressed in my last blog regarding thanking members of the military for their service. I play the bagpipes with the Macdonald Pipe Band of Pittsburgh, and we had the privilege, as we do every year, of marching in the annual Canonsburg (PA) Fourth of July parade. It is the second largest Fourth of July parade in Pennsylvania, after Philly, and drew a record 60,000 spectators this year. There were spots on the route where, I swear, the people were 10 deep or more. Entire front yards along the 2-mile route were filled with revelers who make an outdoor party out of it. Although it is usually hot and the route is long (with two hills), it is the most exciting and gratifying parade we do all year — I like it even better than the St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Pittsburgh!

Anyway, following the parade, the band marches just beyond the parade route down to the VFW. There, we re-tune and then march into the bar area playing Scotland the Brave followed by the Marine Corps Hymn and Caissons (the Army tune). The veterans, most of them older, are always welcoming and grateful. We then get a cold drink and a bite to eat, courtesy of the VFW and its auxiliary, before playing another couple tunes, including Amazing Grace.

This year, a group of younger soldiers, dressed in desert fatigues, had arrived at the VFW before us. I believe they played in a military band. They were just leaving as we came in, and I became emotional upon seeing them. What gets me is all these veterans, young and old, thank US for playing for them. I shook hands and thanked a dozen or more soldiers for their service that day, and they said thank you back to me. I just shook my head and said thank you again. Humbling? Oh yeah.

More Ways to Thank the Military

I read this letter this morning from Youth Services System Inc.'s AmeriCorps VISTA leader Tammy Kruse and thought I would share it with you. The Children’s Home Society of West Virginia’s WE CAN Mentoring Program has launched Military Thank You Note Shower, a program in appreciation of The U.S. Armed Forces. Everyone is invited to take 30 minutes of a summer day to create thank you cards for the members of the armed forces and their families. They recommend heavy card stock paper cut in half or 4 pieces as being perfect for the base of the card, but I'm sure regular paper or construction paper would be OK, too.

All ages can participate. Children can write to a specific member of the military or make it a general greeting. "Ask them to reflect on what it would be like to be so far away from home and act upon their thoughts to create a picture, write a story or just say thank you. If the children are young, they can just color or glue shapes or objects on the card. It can even be a simple note to let the individual know that someone is thinking about them," Kruse states. Older children can write about an element of their freedom they are thankful for. Kruse offers this example: “I am grateful for the freedom of religion. It is an important part of my identity and happiness. Thank you for helping us keep these freedoms intact!”

Another idea, Kruse suggests, is to ask the child what they will do in honor of a military member’s service, such as donate a box of food to the homeless shelter.

Cards can be dropped off at Youth Services System Inc., 87 15th St., Wheeling, through July 24. Pickup service is also available; for information, call 304-661-1462 to schedule a pickup time or e-mail Tammy at

What About You?

Finally, I am interested in finding out how the magazine I edit, OV Parent (OV is for Ohio Valley), can better serve and/or address the needs of local military families. It could be a feature now and then on a local military family's struggles and triumphs or a day-in-the-life story, or maybe I could put a small "military families in the news" section in my monthly column. I also have a Parenting Matters page and a Healthy Kidbits page that, from time to time, could feature short articles of relevance particularly to military families. Any suggestions would be welcomed and considered.


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Blog Photos

This is the military unit that I ran into at the VFW after the Canonsburg Fourth of July parade.