By Jennifer Choi
No, not that McCain.
The "discount John McCain," as the former presidential candidate's brother, Joe, jokingly described himself, spoke about the importance of honoring deceased and living military men and women and discussed the armed-forces history of his family -- including, of course, descriptions of his famous brother's Naval days -- at the school's Veterans Day celebration; it took place a week after the fact because of scheduling conflicts.
"Democracy is not a spectator sport. We cannot forgot those who made sacrifices for us," said McCain of the day of homage.
Dozens of Bushy Park students, along with their parents, were in attendance. The evening began with a brief introduction and welcome by Parent Teacher Association Community Chairwoman Eileen Dietz. Then, the Pledge of Allegiance, led by middle school boy scout Zach Wright, was followed by a speech on the history of Veterans Day, given by Principal Rebecca Straw.
Dan Esmond, founder of The National Anthem Celebration Foundation, whose daughter attends the school, told the detailed history of "The Star Spangled Banner." He told the audience how Francis Scott Key ended up helplessly watching the British attack on Fort McHenry because he had negotiated the release of a prisoner, who was his friend. He explained how Key and his friend became temporary prisoners because the former, in visiting the British army personally to strike the deal, was privy to the Red Coats' location and was told he could not leave until after the attack. And, he recounted the famous story of how watching the battle all through the night and hopefully and anxiously awaiting a glimpse of a still-raised Star Spangled Banner after the rockets had stopped bursting in air inspired Key to pen lines of a poem that would eventually become the national anthem.
This historical talk segued into a live rendition of the song, performed by Barbara Kapinos, the sister-in-law of a former Bushy Park parent. Then, all eyes were on the keynote speaker.
He asked all the armed forces veterans in the audience to stand up and be recognized; there were about seven vets in the audience. He peppered his ensuing speech with jokes and goofiness, but talked seriously about veterans and their sacrifices. He explained how his family's involvement in the armed forces stretches back for generations and how his brother, John, is part of a long legacy at the United States Naval Academy; his son, who graduates in May, will be a fourth-generation USNA grad.
McCain also talked about the accomplishments of his grandfather, a four-star Navy admiral who served in World War II; father, a four-star Navy admiral who commanded U.S. forces in Vietnam; and his brother, John, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for several years.
He even brought out the senator's old flight jacket before going into details about his brother's war experience. He said that because of these deep military ties, his family "has a great respect for anyone who has served." He ended by emphatically telling the audience that "The military serves you all. They serve that flag, which represents the Constitution."
After his speech, a slideshow of veterans' pictures and names was played. Then, a two minute moment of silence was observed and followed by a playing of Taps, a tune traditionally played at military funerals, on trumpet by Carl Reynolds, a Bushy Park parent.
After the program ended, children made thank-you cards with paper and crayons to send to military persons stationed abroad. And, audience members perused various types of military memorabilia related to Bushy Park families, which were scattered around the room.
On addressing such young audience members, which McCain admits he has probably never done, he said that "Having served and coming from a family that has a tradition of serving in the military, I think it's good to share that sense of service with anyone, especially young kids."