Sunday, May 24, 2009

Notes From My Father's Eulogy

Okay, you're afraid of a depressing, ponderous, mournful post here, and I Humbly do not blame you. Rest assured, Humble Reader, that I will try to keep this from being a dirge.

My father served in the Navy for 22 years, retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer after relinquishing his Warrant--his officer status--to gain a greater set of retirement benefits for his family, not for his own prestige.

A navy career is almost always a great sacrifice. Either your family stays home waiting months for your return, or sometimes they don't wait, and you lose your family. Some sailors just don't start a family, putting it off until the leave the service. In all of these, the serviceman (or woman) makes a huge sacrifice. It's not unique to the Navy, but it's probably the worst service for family.

The sacrifice is often just as great a load upon the family of the serviceman as it is on himself. The proper place for a husband and father is at home, not floating in a boat halfway around the world. It is so hard, you can barely imagine it if you have not lived through it. On top of the deprivation of half of the parental support, there are frequent relocations. Imagine what happens to kids whose efforts to make new friends is completely wasted, demolished, because their father was assigned to a new duty base. Imagine what happens to these children after the 3rd or 4th time, how they just give up on having friends. Imagine the loneliness. If you do, you have a small idea of the sacrifices made by a serviceman and his family.

My father made those sacrifices. My family made those sacrifices. Why? For the furtherance of my father's career? To gain prestige, status, rank, pay, authority, or personal sense of accomplishment? NO! My father paid this price to keep his family, his homeland, his nation free and safe. Dad was the best at what he did--it doesn't matter what his specialty was, he was a professional, and one of the best in the world at his occupation--and he chose not to leave his assigned tasks to a lesser person.

As I said in front of a room full of friends and family, part of the reason they were there to honor him, part of the reason they were safe and free and alive, was because my father and millions of servicemen like him, made sacrifices.

I asked those at the service who had served to please stand, and help me honor my father. They stood. And then something happened that I was not expecting.

Everyone there who was sitting, applauded.

To the servicemen out there who have made sacrifices in honorable service to this nation, AND to the families who have made sacrifices, as well, I Humbly salute you, just as I and those standing in the church saluted my father.

Sacrifice, service, and honor. For all these, all you get is a flag on your casket.

And the sincere gratitude of more people than you would ever believe.

They Put Up!!

Again, forgive me for not having posted recently. (I Humbly assume there is someone out there who cares. Arrogant of me.) We suffered a loss in my family. The only hero I ever had in my life, my father, passed away on Wednesday, May 13, in his sleep. I do not say this to garner sympathy, but to explain where I have been. In this difficult time, I have been with my family, as I always will be during any trials that arise.

In my last post, Put Up or Shut Up, I told you about the decision to save money in our local school district by releasing the best teacher I've ever seen. I submitted a letter to the editor in the local newspaper.

While I was out of state, working out funeral arrangements with my family, I got a call from the principal of my son's school. He thanked me for having spoken up about the situation, reassured me that the termination was only due to low seniority, not any lack of competence or any cause for termination. The teacher was to be kept on as a substitute, and given high priority when hiring resumed. But there was some good news. The former kindergarten teacher had just been reassigned and put on contract for next year as a first grade teacher.

Now, I am not saying my Humble letter to the editor had any effect. I don't know if anyone who makes decisions was at all aware of it. Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that I opened my yap, and spouted my opinion; that the principal of the school stated that he considered it to be a well-written opinion; and that the day after it was printed, Miss Redacted was re-employed. In order to maintain my Humble standing, I have to believe it's all coincidence. But I got a very nice thank-you note from Miss Redacted.

It's hard to be Humble sometimes. Especially when you're being bombarded with praise.

My father would have been both amused and proud.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Put Up or Shut Up

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. It has been almost a month since my last blog post. My child has had some medical issues, and as he demands attention, I have less to spare for You, the Humble readership. Am I up to 2 yet?

Not too long ago, we had elections for municipal offices in the town where I reside. For months before that election, I had people drop by my home, and tell me how I should vote for them, because they were dedicated to the people they would represent, and to their platform. EVERY ONE MENTIONED EDUCATION as a top priority.

Think about that. Education is important. Who would dare say it wasn't that big a deal? Who would destroy their political aspirations by saying children were their parents' problem, not the taxpayers. Who would even contemplate saying educated people are everywhere, so if we don't produce any locally, some will move in from other places with well funded schools.

Okay, fine. Some got elected. All of those elected claimed education was a top priority. Last week, my son's kindergarten teacher mentioned that she wasn't being renewed for next year. I Humbly admit to some bias, because this lady treated my son with all the care and compassion I could have ever dreamed of, sparing his feelings and dignity, while gently guiding him through his first school experience. I Humbly admit my bias when I say she has to be one of the best teachers in the entire state. But she got pink-slipped. Budget cuts were required because of the economic climate. Tax revenues are down everywhere, and our town is no exception. In fact, please bear with me as I paste in a copy of my letter to the editor:

My son has been in kindergarten this year at the local elementary, and another will follow him in August. When we requested my son's teacher for his younger brother, we were informed that Miss Redacted won't be renewed in the coming year. I was floored. Ms. Redacted is a super example of the outstanding professionals teaching our children, and part of the reason why the local elementary is a highly rated school and credit to this community.

I know the weak economy has caused a drop in tax revenues, that belt tightening is required in every department of every level of government, and that schools are not excepted from the budget scalpel. But this strikes so close to home that it feels like an axe!

I'm confused. Someone out there made decisions involving the termination of teachers. Presumably, after all the lesser means of cutting costs were exhausted, the school staff budget was cut. Yet, during the last election, EVERY candidate told all of us that education was the highest priority! Obviously no elected official would have allowed one of the finest teachers in the state to be let go. So, who did? Who made the decision to axe Miss Redacted? Was any public discussion held, or was this a decision made behind closed doors?

To simply say that firing teachers is a cost cutting measure is very shortsighted. our town attracts families partly because of the superb reputation of the schools here. If this tragic decision is an indicator, the loss of this one teacher is just the beginning of the end of the superior rating of our town's schools. Whoever it was who pink-slipped Miss Redacted, please reconsider. The cost to this community is higher than the meager salary you are saving.

Okay, bottom line, either EVERY cost cutting measure was tried without eliminating budget shortfalls, or SOME elected official lied about education being a top priority. TEACHERS are getting axed??? TEACHERS??? We're not talking eliminating frills here. We're talking about taking the most critical members of the educational team out, and playing shorthanded. I know I don't need to say that the opposition isn't a competing school.

It's ignorance.