Demonstrating respect for others.
Inquiry: Read Where' s Dave? to the class, and discuss the following:
1. What is Vietnam?
A country in Southeast Asia, which is divided into North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese people wanted to be free of the rule of North Vietnam, and the United States fought in a very long war (more than 10 years) to help liberate the South Vietnamese people. During that war, more than 50,000 American soldiers were killed.
2. In the poem, who left to go to Vietnam?
Dave's older brother, John.
3. Why do you think that "Dave was glad when John left for Vietnam"?
There could have been many reasons. Maybe, he would get to use John's room. Maybe, they argued a lot. Perhaps Dave would get to use a lot of John's stuff while John was gone - we don't know for sure - but one thing was certain: Dave had no idea how dangerous the situation was that John was heading for ... and John might not have either.
4. Who do you think "those guys" were who pulled into the driveway?
They were specially trained American soldiers, dressed in their uniforms, and they delivered the sad news that John had been killed in Vietnam. The "surprise" that one of them carried was a carefully folded American flag. A letter from the President of the United States expressing sorrow over the death of John would also have been delivered.
5. And so, where was Dave?
He was grieving with his family, and did not attend school. Further, he would not be at school for nearly a week afterwards, as it took some time for John's body to be returned to the United States, and for the funeral to be held.
6. What mistakes does the "speaker" in the poem make?
He thinks that there must have been a party for John's safe return, and that maybe Dave overslept. He also calls the item delivered "some kind of surprise" as if it was a welcome gift.
Additional thoughts from the author:
This poem obviously tells a very sad (and true) story. It always brings up questions when I share it, and here's another activity that I liked to have my own students participate in because it was a wonderful "reminder of respect". It was inspired by the fact that I noticed one day that there wasn't much effort or apparent thought being put into our daily few moments reciting the *Pledge of Allegiance.
It dawned upon me that everyone knows someone who is either currently in one of the armed forces, or we know of someone who has served the country in one of the branches of the service at one time or another. (Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard or National Guard)
Since we were already saying the Pledge each morning, the idea was to have each student make a small poster or computer-made certificate honoring the person or persons they knew who were serving or had served in the past. Some of them were about family members or friends who had served back as far as World War I! The first two to go up were my own, which were about my dad and my uncle. (My dad was a World War II radar operator, and my uncle was a supply sergeant in the Korean War) The posters soon covered a bulletin board, then a whole wall, and each morning a student would pick one of theirs and volunteer a quick bit of information about the service-person's task in the military. Then, that same student would dedicate the Pledge to their chosen person, and lead the class in the Pledge.
Students not only paid closer attention to the meaning of the words, they had renewed respect for each other in terms of knowing that each had someone special on the wall - a fact that brought everyone closer together. In all of my years of teaching, this was one of the best ways I ever saw to have students - and myself - really take a moment each day to thank and show respect for the people personally connected to our classroom who fought to protect our country's freedom.
*I hope you'll take a moment to listen to Red Skelton perform the Pledge. I remember hearing him do it live on TV one night in the 1960s. The very next day, our junior high school principal, Mr. John Seville, stopped everything at school to play a reel to reel tape recording of it he had made that same night. I'll never forget hearing it again as it came across the P.A. system, and I think you and your students will find it fascinating as well!