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Little folks can teach us a lesson

Little Chazlie Cripps, 4 1/2, and Tristan Riggle, 6, gave me a lot of hope Monday morning.

They were standing on the sidewalk awaiting the start of the annual Memorial Day services at the Hill County Courthouse.

John Kelleher

Tristan was in his little car, and Chazlie was passing out poppies to the crowd, a fundraising event to help area veterans.

Chazlie's grandma, Kim Cripps, and Tristan's grandpa, Keith Doll, were talking about how they can explain Memorial Day to kids that young. It's not easy to talk about death to people that age.

But the important thing was that they brought the kids to the ceremonies.

Every year, it seems the crowd at the Memorial Day services get older and older.

It was great to see some younger veterans in the crowd, but most were Vietnam-era at the youngest.

And, as always, it was great to see some people who were not veterans at all, just people coming out to thank and pay tribute to those who died in service to their country.

But sometimes, it seems that young people don't have a full understanding of what Memorial Day involves and what toll previous wars have taken on our families and friends.

Let's not be too critical of the present generation of children. As a kid, Memorial Day for me meant a day off school and a time for a barbecue. We had to be dragged to the morning services before chowing down later in the day.

And maybe there is less emphasis on history and civics in schools these days.

So it will be the responsibility of parents and grandparents to instill on this generation the importance of service to the country and the importance of paying tribute to those who made great sacrifices. The best way for kids to learn that lesson is for them to see their parents and grandparents pay tribute.

And maybe older kids would learn a lot from David Driver, the former Montana department commander of the American Legion, who spoke at the services and the later ceremonies sponsored by the Elks Club.

Rather than rely on the usual platitudes, Driver focused in on two people who had died in service — Father Emil Kapaun and Marine Sgt.William Stacey.

Father Kapaun swerved in Korea, rejecting commanders' orders that he evacuate the combat area, he stayed to help injured soldiers. He was taken prisoner and died in the POW camp.

Stacey was killed by a roadside bomb on his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan. He had written a letter to be opened only on the event of his death.

The world would not be changed by his death, he said. But his death would be worth it because Afghani children would have a better country because of the efforts by he and his colleagues.

Driver's speech was enlightening and touching to the crowd.

It brought home the meaning of Memorial Day, as services in Havre have for decades — and will continue to even when Chazlie Cripps and Tristan Riggle are in charge of the ceremonies.

(John Kelleher is managing ecditor of the Havre Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected], 406-265-6795 ext. 17 or 406-390-0798.)


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