My elementary school teachers helped develop patriotism in their students in order to create an appreciation of common memories, hopes, and traditions. Primarily through the study of history, we learned to love our country and to admire heroes. In grade school, there was an easy-going sense of patriotism that appealed to our sense of fun.

We whooped it up for Washington and Lincoln in celebration of their birthdays, drawing pictures of Washington as a boy with a gleeful look on his face as he chopped down the famous cherry tree, or making cardboard versions of Lincoln’s stovepipe hat.

In Miss Holland’s fourth-grade classroom, there was a huge sandbox standing more than 3 feet off the floor in which Steve Squires and I placed a cut-out model of Washington crossing the Delaware.

While we paid respectful attention to the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, most of our study was given to World War II, which had ended four years before our fourth-grade year. For Armistice Day (Veterans Day), we put on a program commemorating the end of World War I, which was still well-remembered by adult men and women.

We affirmed our devotion to our country not just on special occasions, but at the opening of every school day when we stood and pledged allegiance to our flag.

When I was growing up, parades were held on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, and when I was a Cub Scout, our troop marched in both parades. The troop also attended the Armistice Day program at Scoville Park. My Uncle Hubert a World War II veteran, also marched on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

In my eighth-grade history class, students learned that patriotism sometimes becomes distorted. Our teacher explained that exaggerated or distorted forms of patriotism have existed for many years.

For example, our teacher taught us that many European countries thought that they had a moral responsibility to establish colonies in Africa and Asia in order to bring the “benefits” of their cultures to the people of these continents.

During the encompassing years of 1922-1945, the Germans under Hitler and the Italians under Mussolini believed that their respective nations had a patriotic duty to expand their territorial boundaries, and these Fascist leaders demanded public demonstrations of loyalty. The penalty for non-compliance was imprisonment or death.

My grandparents — Americans of German heritage — told me that, during World War I, the loyalty of these people was often questioned because the U.S. was at war with Germany.

During World War Two, thousands of patriotic American-born Japanese men and women were placed in detention camps because of unreasonable fears that these people might be loyal to Japan, our enemy, rather than to the U.S.

As a young person, I learned that patriotism is an attachment to our land and people, admiration for our customs and traditions, and devotion to its welfare.

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