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What was intended to be a learning opportunity for students turned into an object lesson for teachers at a Missouri Elementary school. The lesson: children have an innate respect for the heroes that keep America safe.
Success Elementary School honored the 13 US troops killed last week in Afghanistan by placing 13 cafeteria trays with a folded American flag and names of the slain servicemen, along with photos of each one on dining hall tables.
School administrator Stephanie McKinney planned to read the list of the fallen troops during the lunch period, hoping it be a moment to instill patriotism in the young students.
“What an incredibly refreshing and inspirational story about a public school that’s teaching children to love our nation and to honor the sacrifice of our brave military,” radio host Todd Starnes declared as he shared the story on his show.
“With so much talk these days about new and younger generations lacking the respect and true American grit of the greatest generations of our fathers and grandfathers, I thought today would be a great day for such a learning opportunity,” she wrote in a Facebook post Monday.
At lunchtime, students filed into the cafeteria with raised eyebrows and puzzled looks, whispering to each other to figure out why there were 13 trays. McKinney told them about the brave soldiers who were killed in two suicide bombings in Afghanistan on August 20. She explained the fallen service members were young, students like them sitting in cafeterias just a few years ago.
“There was instant silence. Eyes were large. You could have heard a pin drop,” she recounted.
Now a somber, captivated dining hall, the administrator told the students there would be a moment of silence after each name was read, but stressed it was their choice to bow their heads in respect or continue eating their lunches.
As the names of 13 US troops were read, tears welled up in the eyes of the young students. Others bowed their heads, and several placed their hands across their hearts. All were silent.
“If you know middle schoolers at all, you know how peculiar silence is…Especially chosen silence,” she wrote.
13 minutes of silence passed, but the students remained quiet for the entire lunch period. Most of the young students paused before they left the cafeteria, standing over the 13 treys, tears rolling down their cheeks.
“I only wish the families of [the] fallen soldiers could have seen this,” McKinney said. “These children have innate respect and compassion, much more than I gave them credit for.”
She added: “I knew today would provide opportunity for teachable moments, I just did not realize that part of the education would be learned by me. So proud to have learned that our future is in good hands… if these kids are any indication.”