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Darrell Huckaby - Veterans Day reflection sparks hope for future

I like music. A lot.

Not all music, understand. Rap and I don't get along, for example, and this stuff that passes for rock and roll these days - well, let's just say that, to me, it sounds a lot like two cats out in the back alley fighting over an empty sardine tin.

But I like country and old time rock and classical music and gospel and bluegrass and jazz - and I even like show tunes. I'll even listen to Doris Day once in a great while, and if that makes you question my manhood, well then, so be it.

Because I like music so much, I play it in my classroom every day - usually between classes as the students are coming into the room. I've done it for as long as I can remember, and it seems to set a positive tone each day. It's hard to be in a foul mood when you've got Jerry Lee Lewis pounding on the piano and singing "Great Balls of Fire" at an extremely high decibel level.

Sometimes the music matches the lesson. Sometimes the music matches the events of the day. Sometimes it is just music. Let me give you an example or three.

Every year on the anniversary of Princess Diana's death you can count on hearing Elton John's "Goodbye England's Rose" as you file past my door. On the Friday before Georgia's first game you will hear "Glory, Glory," and on Elvis's birthday, "Jailhouse Rock" will probably be on the agenda.

If we happen to be studying the War of 1812, I will use Johnny Horton's "Battle of New Orleans" to greet my students. Remember that one? "They ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles and they ran through the bushes where the rabbits couldn't go."

And when we study the Vietnam War, I play protest songs, and when we study the Old West, I play cowboy songs and, well, you get the picture.

Yesterday was Veteran's Day - the day set aside to honor all the veterans of all the wars; those brave men and women who have put themselves on the line for us; those who survived and those who laid their lives on the altar of freedom on our behalf.

I played a patriotic CD all day. "God Bless the USA" led it all off, followed by the "Stars and Stripes forever." As my first period class settled into their seats and prepared to write an essay on Jacksonian Democracy, a rendition of "America the Beautiful" was playing. We sat and listened for a moment. As we did so, I looked around my room, thinking about all the events that have been woven together to make this country what it is today.

I wish y'all could see my classroom. I have 35 years of memories and memorabilia plastered on my walls and ceiling. That's one reason I can't bring myself to retire. How would I ever get all that stuff down - and then what would I do with it?

There is an American flag, of course - a big one - that was flown over an American army post in Iraq. And there is a Texas flag that was flown over the Alamo, in honor of my oldest child, Jamie Lee. And there is a rattlesnake flag - the one from the American Revolution that warns "Don't tread on me." There is a poster of Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima next to that flag, just to remind people that they had better not.

I have some pretty nice art work on my walls, too. Like the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware and the unfinished portrait of FDR and the famous set of Four Freedom prints done by Norman Rockwell during World War II.

I have some pretty cool photographs, too - many of which are blown up to poster size. There's one of Elvis and one of Marilyn Monroe. Hey, they were both American icons - they belong in a history class. And there is the famous photograph of the hollow-eyed woman staring at the camera during the Great depression and the one of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square and one of MLK Jr. standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the Poor People's March. I also have a few that I have taken myself. There is one of the U.S. Capitol Dome and another of a spectacular sunset on Jekyll Island. And there are a lot of historical newspaper front pages, from Pearl Harbor and 9/11 and men walking on the moon - stuff like that.

Naturally, I have tons of work that my students have created - I could go on and on and on, because, like I say, it's 35 years worth of stuff.

And Tuesday, as we listened to "America the Beautiful," and as I looked into the faces of my students - who are so smart and so motivated and so full of hope and promise - I felt a tear forming in the corner of my eye and despite all I could do to blink it back, it escaped and rolled down my cheek.

It's a great country, y'all. I hope you remembered to thank a veteran yesterday and, if not, hug a child today. The veterans of the past provided the security of our present, but the children are our future.

God bless the USA, indeed.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.