Ah yes, `tis one of the many garnishments of the public school experience: the educational Field Trip.
This morning we loaded our class into two full size vans for a drive into Oklahoma City, to visit a Museum of the 45th Infantry Division of the United States Army – the Thunderbirds.
Once inside, I realized this was not merely a reliquary to a single military division, but of the military history of the United States – spanning from the Conquistadores of the New World to the “desert dogs” of Gulf War I. There was a collection of equipment and armaments to represent more than three centuries of warfare, including a 12 acre military park featuring land, sea, and air vehicles.
In addition to this were two very powerful exhibits to the Holocaust – one to the event itself in general and the other one marking the liberation of Dachau, where the 45th Infantry played a significant role. Everything was done in an elegant and solemn manner, with such an abundance of information that I could have easily spent an entire day going through it all.
The students were fascinated by it all, including one girl who was moved to tears by the atrocities of the Holocaust. Her compassion for the suffering of other human beings moved me deeply. Most teenagers are not usually so vulnerably compassionate. Others were similarly affected, not only by the horrors but of the legacy of warfare in this country`s history. I remember one student remarking quietly as we left: “I never knew we`d had so many Wars.”
Overall, it was more than a little bit impressive (especially for a student of History like myself) and I marveled that I had not heard of such a venue before. `Twas an outing that, I think, the students will not soon forget – and I hope it provokes a deeper hunger for knowledge and understanding, as any such excursion should.