For Love of Country

6, 7, 8
This lesson describes the military's role in our country and highlights service to country as one of the most sacrificial forms of "voluntary action intended for the common good." 
Focus question: What is a citizen's responsibility to participate in civil society?
PrintTwo 40-Minute Class periods

The learner will:

  • understand the history of the Armed Forces and of the state militias, in times of conscription and volunteer service.
  • identify and understand the roles of the service branches of the U.S. military and of the state National Guard.
  • research initiatives to support veterans and/or service members and their families.
  • recognize the role of philanthropic organizations in supporting those who serve our country.
  • plan and carry out a plan to support the troops with letters or another advocacy.
  • A Brief History of the Military in America (Handout A)
  • U.S. history textbooks
  • newspaper articles (paper or online)
  • stationery and envelopes
Home Connection 

Students will ask their parents if any relatives or neighbors currently serve in the Armed Forces. If so, students may wish to share their names and connections with the class. Likewise if any parents are currently serving or are veterans, they should be invited to class at a convenient time to discuss their experience.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Put the following quote on the chalkboard. Let the learners discuss what the quote might mean and who might have said it.

    “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

    Explain that Nathan Hale was a teacher and a captain in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, who was captured by the British and admitted being a spy for General George Washington. British General William Howe ordered the execution of Hale, who was hanged the next day. Hale's famous quote was first reported in the memoirs of his friend, William Hull, who wasn’t present at the hanging but said he heard the quotation from a British officer who was present. Another British officer who witnessed Hale’s execution wrote in his memoir that Hale’s final words were, “It is the duty of every good officer to obey any orders given him by his commander-in-chief.” It is certainly possible that Hale said something along the lines of “I have but one life to give” because, as a student at Yale University, Hale was fond of this line from Joseph Addison’s 1713 play, Cato: “What pity is it that we can die but once to serve our country.” Although Hale's spying mission ended in failure, his patriotism made him a hero among the colonists fighting for independence.

  2. Have the students work in groups with textbooks and internet. Ask them to find other examples from history or from current events in which people have given their lives or made other significant sacrifices for their country. Have each group share one of their examples.

  3. Distribute Handout, “A Brief History of the Military in the United States,” for students to take home and complete that evening as homework.

  4. Day Two

  5. Discuss service to one's country as a form of philanthropy. Define philanthropy as "giving time, talent, or treasure and taking action for the common good."

  6. Give students a brief overview of the many nonprofit organizations that exist to support soldiers, veterans, and their families (do a Google search). Discuss the role of these nonprofits and how they get their start and funding (read several "about" statements on their websites).

  7. Using a group decision-making process, choose one of the programs that forwards mail to service members.

  8. Have each student write a personalized letter expressing gratitude for that person’s service. The letters should demonstrate the student’s knowledge of the history and role of the member’s service branch. Letters should comply with style and usage guidelines for personal letters.

  9. Allow enough time so that students can write a rough draft that can be checked for grammar, spelling, word choice, etc., then polished into a final copy. Send the letters to the nonprofit organization selected.

  10. Reflect on how it felt to write the letter.


Students will complete a short reading assignment at home and may be graded on the four short answer questions that accompany the reading. Students may also receive a grade for letters they write to service members. These should be assessed not only for content, but spelling, grammar, and proper letter format.

Cross Curriculum 

Students will communicate directly with active soldiers through one of the many programs organized for that purpose.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
    2. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark MS.1 State the purpose of a mission statement and describe how civil society organization mission statements relate to philanthropy.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.6 Describe how the founding documents and fundamental democratic principles encourage citizens to act philanthropically.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.