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COL Student's essay praises sailor

Some of America's critics seem to despise patriotism, national pride and the grievous sin of "triumphalism," while encouraging pride and self-esteem in other cultures.

The incessant America-bashers appear to believe objectivity requires blaming America first and giving other cultures and U.S. adversaries a relativistic nonjudgmental pass.

The strength of America comes from its cultural traditions and values. The blood and treasure America has spent protecting and spreading freedom is incalculable. That story should be heralded in classrooms and the media.

The problems of America are generally mitigated within the context of its institutional and cultural heritage. The tendency of some media and academic elites is to blame the U.S. first and bristle at criticisms directed at them. A reporter exhibited a revealing attitude in his question to the White House press secretary: "Do you expect us to write how great the military is?" Yes.

Newsweek emulated the Dan Rather problem of quickly getting negative news out before checking multiple sources. A May Newsweek article erroneously alleged American troops desecrated the Koran. The false story ignited Middle East riots, deaths and anti-American hatred. America's critics seem supersensitive about the treatment of terrorist detainees and unconcerned about "insurgent" atrocities against civilians and even attacks on Mosques. The Holy Koran is to be respected, but where is the outrage when Saudi officials shred copies of the Holy Bible, or Islamic radicals denounce and threaten Christians and Jews?

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World War II journalists were Americans first, and did not deliberately publish stories that gave aid and comfort to the enemy or increased the threat to military personnel in combat zones.

If they insist on criticizing American policies, the academic and media analysts should fulfill their assertions of objectivity and balance by addressing the indigenous problems of other cultures. They should explain how many of the problems of the Islamic world are self-inflicted by tyrants and religious extremists. Western influence has contributed to some of the region's problems, but Western democratic values are a solution.

; Given my pessimistic analysis of America-bashers, I was inspired by the creative teaching and learning exhibited in a Mayo High School class.

; The American Studies class was team-taught by Barb Milburn (English) and Susan Wolfe (social studies). I had the pleasure of reading a paper written for the class by Andrew Ackerman. The 10th-grader's proud father, Brent, passed a copy of the paper on to enlighten me about positive events in public education.

Ackerman's eloquent writing and thorough research illuminated the goodness of America reflected in the words and experiences of a military veteran.

; His paper, titled "Three and One-Half Years," is based on the experiences of Cal Diekhoff, a World War II Navy sailor.

After enlisting and sharing sad goodbyes with his wife, Lucille, Diekhoff completed military training and shipped out as an engineer on a U.S. Navy destroyer. Lucille enlisted and served as a U.S. Army nurse.

The Diekhoff story of wartime duty and love lost and regained, is masterfully chronicled in Ackerman's paper. It is, as Andrew described the sailor's statements, the story of a veteran who volunteered to "fight to protect this beautiful land we live in."

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Ackerman was moved to pay tribute to Diekhoff by writing a poem, "The Night of the Lunar Rainbow." Among the memorable poetic lines: "I have seen the damage. The bombings and burnings left scars reflected in the moonlight as the great lunar rainbow shines from the heavens to smile on the Earth."

His poem, Ackerman explained, "is closely related to the life of Mr. Diekhoff and describes the night watch a sailor experienced on a ship traveling away from Pearl Harbor in April of 1942," four months after the Dec. 7 Japanese attack on the U.S. military base.

Included in Ackerman's paper are graphic WWII Navy recruiting posters and a graphic color representation of "The Night of the Lunar Rainbow."

The creative classroom assignments designed by Milburn and Wolfe stimulated a motivated student to craft and blend the biography of a U.S. Navy veteran into a literary and historical essay.

The positive, patriotic and inspirational essay illustrates what creative teachers and motivated students can achieve and how the goodness of America and its people can be transmitted and preserved.

Tom Ostrom is a former Rochester Community and Technical College instructor who writes a monthly column for the Post-Bulletin.

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