July 04, 2012 - There's no doubt Kathleen Hubbard is proud to be an American, but she doesn't just say it, she shows it by educating local youth about patriotism, Americanism and the sacrifices made by the brave veterans they see everyday.
"These students are our future and if they have a better insight into these things, then we're making better citizens," said Hubbard, who's a member of Oxford American Legion Auxiliary Unit 108 and a resident of Orion Township. "I think more of us need to stand up today and let people know we're proud to be Americans."
For her efforts, Hubbard was named Auxiliary Member of the Year at the 94th Annual State Convention for the American Legion Department of Michigan held in Kalamazoo between June 28 and July 1.
"I was very humbled," she said. "It took my breath away. It was a total shock, but an honor, for sure.
"I didn't feel like I did anything special. I just did what every American should be doing. It just goes to show that the things we do are appreciated."
"She's an all-around wonderful person as far as (advocating) for veterans and their families," said Pat Bliss, president of Auxiliary Unit 108. "She's always there to help somebody and always willing to do whatever's needed for anybody."
For the past two years, Hubbard's been teaching students lessons in American pride at Oak Hollow Christian School, a private K-8 institution operated by and housed in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, located at 120 Manitou Lane, right on the Oxford/Orion border.
"I think it's lost in our (public) schools," she said. "They don't even salute the flag in our schools anymore. Our Americanism and our patriotism has almost disappeared in our schools."
Hubbard, who's the school board chairperson and leader of the parent volunteer group for Oak Hollow, established a program which educates students about the pivotal role veterans have played throughout the nation's history and helps them develop a healthy respect for their extensive sacrifices.
"We have veterans that are struggling daily that just need someone to show they care and appreciate the sacrifices that they've made for our freedom," she said.
As part of the program, students have interviewed veterans about their service; they've commemorated their sacrifices on Veterans Day; they've taken field trips to the military museum at Oxford American Legion Post 108; and they've participated in events like the National Day of Prayer, the local version of which is held at the Orion Veterans Memorial.
For the prayer event, Hubbard had the students make pocket flags and pocket soldiers to distribute to attendees. The students folded tiny flags and inserted them in small plastic bags. For the pocket soldiers, they placed tiny toy army men in small bags along with notes that read, "Let this pocket soldier be a reminder to you of the ongoing sacrifice made by the U.S. Military service members of the past, present and future. When you take this soldier from your pocket, please take a moment to say a prayer that God will keep watch over them and their loved ones."
Every May, Oak Hollow students see local veterans standing on street corners and at intersections handing out red crepe paper poppies to passersby in exchange for donations. Hubbard decided to use this opportunity to educate students about the poppy's significance.
The poppy is a widely-recognized symbol of remembrance for soldiers who have died in conflict. It gained popularity as a memorial symbol because of its mention in the classic poem "In Flanders Field," which was written and published during World War I.
"They learned about Flanders Field and what the poppy stands for," she explained. "They learned why the veterans are out there distributing them and how those funds go to help our living veterans, widows and orphans."
Hubbard even had students plant real poppies around the school's sign.
The black-and-white POW/MIA flag is another symbol of remembrance that Hubbard's students learned about. It represents all those soldiers whose last known status was either prisoner of war or missing in action.
Hubbard had the students write down the addresses of 10 places, between their home and the school, where they saw either the American flag or the POW/MIA flag or both flying high. Extra points were awarded for whoever found the most POW/MIA flags.
Later, the kids were asked to pick one place from their list, knock on the door and present the owner with a certificate of appreciation for showing their patriotism.
"It made the children more observant of their surroundings," she said.
The students in Hubbard's program have also learned about American flag etiquette, such as the proper way to fold Old Glory; why the flag is always draped over the coffins of deceased soldiers and veterans; and how to locate Michigan's star on the flag – four stars across and three rows down. Michigan was the 26th state in the union.
In addition to the program she established, Hubbard's been very active in promoting student essay contests such as the Patriot's Pen and Voice of Democracy, both of which are sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"I don't limit it just to the (Oak Hollow) school," she said. "I reach out to other kids in our community in other schools."
Hubbard said the contests are a great way to help students' build self-confidence and American spirit; help teachers earn money for the classroom; and help participating schools earn recognition.
Honoring veterans and promoting Americanism are causes near and dear to Hubbard's heart primarily because her husband of 43 years, James Hubbard, is a highly-decorated Vietnam War hero.
Today, he's viewed as a hero. But he wasn't treated like one back in the late 1960s.
"When he came back from serving, (the anti-war protesters) literally spit in his face," she said. "It wasn't by choice these boys went to Vietnam; these boys were drafted."
Hubbard wants to ensure something like that never, ever happens again. That's why she's so passionate about instilling the proper respect for veterans in future generations.
Unfortunately, sometimes Hubbard feels as though she's fighting a losing battle as people have become more self-centered, in her opinion.
"It's sad to think that we as Americans are losing our pride in our country," she said. "People are so worried about themselves, they forget about the person beside them and the person behind them."
Every American has been given the "opportunity to reach out (to others) and say 'Here I am. I can help you.'"
"The world is about others," Hubbard said. "When you reach out and do things for others, you forget about your own problems. It makes you a better and stronger person."
Given Hubbard's various health issues – she has one lung, one kidney and only 30 percent of her heart function – it would be quite easy for her to focus on herself and no one else. But then she would miss out on the "joy" of helping others and the realization that even though she's "a miracle walking . . . the world isn't all about me."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.