Every year in May, the Upper School holds a special assembly to commemorate Memorial Day. This tradition dates back to St. Louis Country Day School and features remarks by an alum serving in the military as well as a reading of the names of alumni, faculty and staff who have given their lives in service of our country. Students also recognize and applaud any veterans in attendance, and the Upper School choir closes the program with a beautiful rendition of America the Beautiful.
Major Hannah E. Kaufman ’99, United States Army, shared her reflections on Memorial Day with students, faculty and alumni guests on May 15. She began with a brief and fitting poem, Grass by Carl Sandburg, and then shared, “Carl Sandburg’s words remind us both of the persistence of nature and the ease with which we forget. As Memorial Day approaches we are tasked with remembering those who gave their life in battle—Washington’s ragtag troops of the Revolution; the Union dead of Grant, Sherman, and Meade; Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force; the Allied Forces in Europe and the Pacific; the 58,220 American souls lost in Vietnam; the men and women killed on the modern battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. We remember them in hopes that though the grass covers all, fewer wars are fought and peace lasts just a little bit longer.”
Major Kaufman then shared some personal stories from her service in Afghanistan, including images of her accommodations and memories of an impactful Memorial Day assembly. She reflected on why she chose to serve and why she continues to serve, despite all the challenges, sacrifices and risks. “I serve because I like the trust my country puts in me, and the challenge to make sure that trust is warranted. I serve because I like the comradery and adventure. I serve because it’s personally and professionally rewarding…I chose to put on a uniform. But there is a long tradition of public service in this country. I would ask each of you to consider how you can serve. Maybe you want to build schools with the Peace Corps, volunteer with a local charity, serve as a diplomat overseas. There are myriad ways to serve.”
Major Kaufman graduated from MICDS in 1999 and attended NYU, earning a degree in English and American Literature in 2003. She joined the US Army JAG Corps after graduating from Washington University School of Law in May 2006. Major Kaufman has served in various locations and positions during her over 12 years as an active duty service member, including two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a military lawyer, Major Kaufman worked as a prosecuting attorney, advised commanders on the law of armed conflict and assisted soldiers in family law matters. Major Kaufman’s awards include the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terror Service Medal and the NATO Medal.
A video with her full remarks can be found below.