Over the holiday weekend, graduates of the 2012 American Legion Boys Nation and Auxiliary Girls Nation programs took time to reflect on the sacrifices of our country's war-dead. The group submitted to Legion headquarters words of gratitude, expressing thanks for the service Legionnaires and Legion family members have given in their military careers and in creating and maintaining the Boys and Girls Nation programs that they graduated from last summer.
Below is a copy of the email containing their thoughts, sent to Legion headquarters by Boys Nation alumnus Cory Alpert of South Carolina.
Dear Legionnaires and Auxiliary Members,
We, the Boys and Girls Nation Classes of 2012 wish to convey our sincerest thanks to the veterans who valiantly served this country in the Armed Forces. In this joint resolution, we will present to you a few messages of appreciation from members of both programs on this Memorial Day, when the whole nation commemorates the sacrifices made by those warriors and their families whom the Legion and its Auxiliary are sworn to aid.
"I can never thank you enough for the service you have given our country. I give thanks for you brave soldiers and your brothers in arms who have fallen in battle this Memorial Day."
President Jonathan Hess (Alabama)
"The Legion's dedication to our veterans is inspiring to so many, especially those of us from Girls and Boys Nation. I have no words to express my appreciation for everything you've done to give us a truly incredible experience. Your work makes me proud to be an American. On this day, we remember those who have fought to protect and develop the country that we are today, and knowing that The American Legion and Auxiliary is there to support our veterans is very comforting. Thank you for all that you do, and thank you to all of the brave men and women who proudly represent America with courage and strength."
Riya Patel (Vermont)
"My name is Elisabeth Daigle, and I am a proud, honored, and thankful graduate of both the 2012 sessions of Alabama Girls State and Girls Nation.
Today on Memorial Day I wanted to reach out to the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary and send out my thanks for the service and support these two establishments have given. I also hope to convey my gratitude for providing me and millions of girls and boys before me the chance to go to State and Nation. The programs, I have come to know, are more than honorable leadership forums, they are programs where kids become patriots. Girls and boys come to know and love their God and Country at Boys and Girls State/Nation programs. For this outlet and opportunity I thank all who call themselves Legionnaires as well as Auxiliary members.
As Girls Nation senators, we were taught all of the military branch songs, we sang these along with every patriotic tune possible, and the week which I expected to be a competitive leadership program, turned into a learning experience centered around service. We practiced singing the songs of the different branches and choreographed motions to them all in preparation for the day that changed my life.
Most Staters who are blessed with the opportunity to go to Nation will recall meeting the president as the highlight of their week in D.C. For me, however, the meeting with the president was second to meeting with, singing for, and thanking the injured servicemen at the veterans hospital in Bethesda. On that day, I spoke with moms of soldiers who were being treated. I met sons and daughters on visits to see their hurt moms and dads. I can still see the smiling faces of those veterans when we sang their branch songs, and I can vividly hear both their cheers and jeers to each branch song. That day I realized the importance of supporting our armed servicemen. That week I was brought to the realization that my freedom is fought for every day by soldiers who risk life and limb for a higher cause. The idea of war was not made real to me until a mother told me that her son, who was exactly 3 years older than me, had been shot in Iraq and suffered such extensive memory loss that he does not recall ever fighting in the war. A boy, someone's son, someone's brother, potentially someone's father had lost his memory fighting for me. Millions more have given their life for me.
In recollection of my experiences at nation and girls state on this blessed Memorial Day, I feel so lucky. Lucky to have men and women so selflessly fighting for all that we know and love. In this letter I wanted to remind you all of the good you have done by starting and supporting the girls and boys state and nation programs while also giving thanks for the service of all American Legionnaires and Auxiliary members. Because of programs and people like those who are in these two groups our democracy will surely prevail and young people will become citizens invested in doing good for others and supporting those who fight for our freedom, and for that I thank you.
God Bless Y'all and God Bless America"
Elisabeth Daigle (Alabama)
"We cannot thank you enough for defending literally everything that makes our lives so great: our homes, communities, families and country. Thank you so much."
Chris Clifton (Delaware)
"Your devotion to freedom is spectacular! You have shaped and continue to shape our world into a special place because of your superb acts of courage. Words are not enough to express our gratitude."
Rob Egan (Kansas)
"I cannot say enough for the impact you've had on my life and on the lives of our veterans. You're a wonderful force for good in our country and we appreciate all you do."
Megan Jacobson (Minnesota)
"Your passion for our veterans is contagious, and your support of programs that develop young leaders has spread that passion across the country. Thank you for being a continuous positive force in the lives of many."
Gabrielle Bozarth (Washington)
"Thank you for all that you do to honor those who have served our great nation. As John F. Kennedy stated, 'As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.' You have inspired many to live by the bravery and patriotism our service men and women have taught us."
Maggie Senft (Connecticut)
"I have never seen the front lines of war; I have never had a loved one die at the hands of the enemy. But I have seen the white, uniform headstones of over 400,000 men and women who helped bring me the life I have rolling endlessly over the hills of Arlington Cemetery. I have seen the tomb of an unknown soldier who has left all he has known behind to go off to war, only never to return home. Many a time I have seen an empty chair and thought of the son, daughter, husband, wife, niece, or nephew who will never sit down to eat with his family again. And each time, I remembered: all of these lives were given out of selflessness, not selfishness.
Thank you for your service, patriotism, and loyalty. Words cannot express my gratitude to you and my pride in America. Thank you for your service."
Desiree Bartels (Nebraska)
"Today we remember the brave men and women who have served in our armed forces at home and abroad. I hope that you will all take some time today to honor those who have served and to thank someone you see who is serving, has served, or has lost someone who served. I look forward to joining the other men in this group who will be entering into the armed services this summer. I know that, together, we will make our nation proud!"
Bob Leddy (Nebraska)
"Thank you, thank you, and thank you again for all you have done and continue to do for this country. You make me proud to be an American and volunteer with the Sons of the American Legion. God Bless."
Giovanni Moujaes (California)
"I cannot thank you all enough for the service you do for this great country. The opportunity I was given to attend Girls Nation truly shaped my patriotism and made me sincerely grateful for The Legion's unmatched service. Today, like any day, I honor our troops, their families, and all the volunteers that help shape our Nation."
Madeline Moore (Alaska)
"On Memorial Day - and every other day - we reflect upon and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our country. Thank you for your selfless dedication and unfailing courage. May we never forget that we live in the land of the free because of brave men and women like you."
Anjali Fernandes (Missouri)
"On this Memorial Day, I would like to convey my regret at the too early passing of my hero, Capt. John David Hortman. I live my life every day with the awareness that I must act in a way which will make him proud, as he will live on so long as those who love him still remember to act as honorably as he would. The 2012 South Carolina Delegation to Boys Nation remembers the passage of the John David Hortman Resolution on the Boys Nation floor as our shining moment, dedicating the session to his powerful memory. I would like to thank all veterans for their immeasurable service to this country and to the families who fight just as valiantly at home while their loved ones serve across land and seas. We stand in the shadow of giants who made this country great."
Cory Alpert (South Carolina)