DODDS Children Honor “Heroes of the Battle” by: Bev Filer

As the holiday season approaches, I am reminded of the significance of the season.
It is the season of giving and a time for reflection and appreciation of the many gifts
we receive daily. Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving are reminders of how fortunate we are,
and of those who have made and those who continue to make our good fortune possible.
Having taught at the Department of Defense Dependents Schools, known as DODDS,
in Okinawa and Germany, I have a real appreciation of our military families and their sacrifice
for our way of life.  A few years ago, while I was teaching at Kaiserslautern Elementary School,
I was lucky enough to be able to work with Katherine Dines, an award winning children’s song writer.
Her Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta music CD’s have garnered over 30 national awards.
Her songs have also been featured in Build-A-Bear workshops and Disney’s 101 Dalmations Dog Songs.
It was a treat to be around such a talent who was hired by the KES PTO (Parent Teacher’s Association),
to present to and do a number of song writing workshops with students at Kaiserslautern Elementary School.
I was to create a schedule for her at KES and act as her sponsor. The night before she began her work at KES,
I had the opportunity to take her to Landstuhl American Hospital to visit with wounded soldiers and marines
who were recovering on the ambulatory floor there. She was pleased to do that, especially since she had not
previously had the chance to meet military members.
After talking with these wounded heroes and being so impressed by their dignity and courage, Katherine took out
her guitar and began to play children’s songs she had written. Doctors and nurses started filing into the room
as lively music filled the air and soldiers, marines, and medical staff all began singing and swaying to the
bouncy beat of  these charming tunes. Smiles all around made this a very moving experience for everyone!
The next day Katherine went to KES with me, and in no time, had the children humming happily along to her
clever children’s songs. In one of the song writing workshops with fourth graders, the children opted to write
a song for the wounded warriors for whom they had been making cards.  I watched in amazement as Katherine
guided them in writing a tender song that they titled, “Heroes of the Battle”. Writing that song made those children
feel so proud and empowered! It was a way for them to contribute!
Katherine had no way of knowing how the seed she had sown with this song
and those students at KES would bloom in the future!
That was mainly due to John Keating, our school psychologist, himself a musician who played the guitar.
He played their song for the children who authored it to the music Katherine Dines had written for it.
Mr. Keating, who realized the importance of this song written by these fourth grade students, took it to a new level.
Due to his efforts, the  students, along with Ms. Kriner, their classroom teacher, and Mr. Keating,
were invited to sing “Heroes of the Battle” in the cafeteria at the Landstuhl Military Hospital during lunch.
Parents were also invited to attend to support their children.  Even a reporter from the Stars and Stripes
newspaper, who later wrote a story about it, was on hand!
Tears trickeld down smiling faces as the wounded warriors and medical staff listened intently
while the room filled with the sweet sound of young voices singing a tender tribute to their wounded heroes.
One young soldier was so touched that he asked the hospital commander, who was also there listening,
if this choir of children could be permitted to go up to the ambulatory wing of the hospital to sing to his friends.
The commander agreed and the whole crew…
Children, Parents, Ms. Kriner, and Mr. Keating, with guitar in hand to accompany the singers, moved upstairs
to the floor where their wounded heroes awaited them!
Once again the children broke into song singing “Heroes of the Battle” to honor these wounded warriors.
Music flowed through the room as tears made their way past the smiling lips of the audience.
It was a “Sight to Behold” and one I will never forget! The young man, who had requested this children’s choir
to sing his friends, commented that no medal would ever be as meaningful to him as this song…
written and performed by these children.
So, in this season of “Thanks” and on this special day set aside to “Honor Our Veterans”,
this day stands out in my mind as a “Treasure”!
I was so happy to be a small part of that special memory!
Do you have a special memory of a time of “Thanks” you treasure?
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