It seems to me that our community is in a pretty good mood these days, and for many very good reasons. Our lakes and ponds are full and there is water standing in places that we had forgotten were low spots. The wheat fields are a shade of green that was only a distant memory, and cleaning mud off of our boots is even become an occasional necessity. We’ve got the KC-46 inbound, which will bring economic growth to our area. The reservoir project buzzing around our community seems to have inspired widespread support to make something useful, something truly special out of a diamond in the rough that we’ve sadly come to just accept as “rough”. The Altus Swim Team dominated the entire state last year, winning their second State Championship in five years, after being in the top three every single year during this five-year stretch. Of course, we’ve now have a brand new football State Championship that ignited our entire community…Wow, what a ride! We now have an opportunity right in front of us that we can add to that list of things to be proud of. We can give our Altus Band kids the opportunity to visit Oahu for a once in a lifetime chance to perform live at the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and experience firsthand the legacy of a day that most certainly does live in infamy.
The idea of spending $300,000 to send our kids on a trip to Hawaii has not gone without some healthy criticism and opposition. There are lots of legitimate concerns and reasons why one might think this is not a good idea. Some have even characterized this a “fun trip” or a vacation. The trip will no doubt be fun however more importantly this will be the bookend on an educational journey that started over a year ago that has included meeting with, hearing stories from, and honoring our veterans. The entire football and contest season’s performances have been focused on veterans and specifically WW2 in order to immerse these kids in our history and to honor our veterans and their sacrifices. The truth is, this trip is going to happen and the only question left is which kids get to go. Our community has a strong track record of supporting our kids. Our AHS band kids have been honored by being chosen and invited as the single band to represent our entire state at this historic event. And because it is going to happen, it would be nice to see our community come together and support our kids in this endeavor, just like we always do.
“That Altus Band” is going to represent Altus and the entire state of Oklahoma, remembering the attack that took so many of our brave men and women and changed the course of history. The ideas of honor, courage, service and sacrifice are often abstract ideas for teenagers. These kids will travel to a place and experience things that today only exists for them in textbooks, movies and on television. They will learn history by being at the very place where it all took place and will meet people who were there when it happened. In the parade honoring veterans on Friday, they will carry the banner representing the battleship USS Oklahoma, its crew of 864 officers and enlisted, and honoring the 429 sailors and marines aboard that ship who lost their lives on Dec. 7th, 1941. They will perform at an outdoor concert at the USS Missouri and will participate at a laying of the wreath ceremony at the USS Arizona. The kids will also visit the Polynesian Cultural Center, where they will learn about the history of Hawaii and participate in a luau. These kids will return home to Altus forever changed with knowledge and an experience that is nearly impossible to convey in a classroom, and most certainly will only enhance their lives and our community.
The band kids have been raising money in various ways for over a year. There are fundraising events planned over the next several months, including a spaghetti dinner planned for Saturday, March 5th at 6pm at the Altus High School cafeteria. These kids are working their hearts out…In fact one young lady who busses tables at Western Sizzlin’ brings in her tip money…a stack of one dollar bills every week to Mrs. Runyan to add to her account. These fundraising events have raised about half of what is needed to get these kids to Hawaii, however what they really need right now is for our community to decide this is important enough to fully get behind and to make sure that it happens. I am asking you to keep your eye out for band fundraisers and to do what you can to support these kids. I am also asking you to take a minute to write your dinner plans for March 5th on your calendar. If you’re anything like me, a mental note won’t get me in my car and get me there.
This trip will likely be the only time that many of these kids will get the opportunity to travel so far from home or to take part in such an event. Some of these young folks would have never thought of, nor would ever think such a trip possible, given the realities of their lives. Some of them have never even left the state of Oklahoma. This trip, without a doubt, will change the trajectory of one or more of our young people’s lives. Some will decide they want to do something with their life that they never even knew or thought about…Perhaps he or she will be inspired to join the Navy, or the Air Force, and serve their country. There is no way to know or to measure what a difference this trip will make in the lives of our kids, but there is no doubt that it will change some or all of them. Inspiration is a precious thing in life, and good inspiration even more rare it seems. Growth and progress in our community depend much on our children, their development, and their ability to see beyond what we’ve come to accept as status quo. The limits of their success can be multiplied by the truly unique, positive experiences we provide them.
This trip is an opportunity that many would never have the chance to otherwise experience in their lifetimes, and this experience is difficult to put a price tag on.
Our community is on a roll. Let’s add one more thing to that growing list of things that we all can and should be proud of. Let’s teach these kids that what seems impossible is possible. Let’s send the entire Altus Band and give all of these kids a chance at something that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
Reach Martin Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org