I started teaching during the days when the scars of the Vietnam War were still raw. Some of my students were "bused in" from nearby Southeast DC due to another socio-political war that raged in our country back then. Some of my students had family ties to the military base and talked of planes landing late at night and MPs who came knocking at doors. Some of my students came from the nearby affordable-public housing complex, and that is where Zachary (name changed) and his mom lived. I can remember the abundant silky curls that framed his face and his eyes, so distant, at times. I remember his mom, who did not look like him but consistently picked Zachary up, every day. We were close in age yet far apart in experiences. I was a young eager teacher trying to learn class management and curriculum while she, a young widow, was figuring out how to continue living after the greatest of losses and how to raise a son who looked like, but would never know his dad.
I gave out "gold stars" on well done papers back in those days. There was a lot of paperwork in the teaching-learning process back then, so the stars were reminders that I valued all of the students' work. I remember that Zachary was particularly drawn to gold stars. I was too glad the war was over and too busy trying to survive as a new teacher to stop and think about the potential significance of the gold stars. Back in those days, following a war many did not agree with, their sacrifice was quiet and never discussed. Back in those days, I didn't even know about the Gold Star Club of mothers, wives and children who gave more than their share in wars long ago, and through today. Older and wiser, today I pray for Zachary and for his Mom, wherever they might be. I wish I had acknowledged their sacrifice. As we stop to acknowledge the sacrifices of so many, I stop to pray for all the many mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and children impacted by the loss of life in conflicts far away or nearby, long ago and on more recent days.