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Military Kids Get Chance To March In Inaugural Parade

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Kids with parents in the military can have it hard. They move around a lot. They constantly need to make new friends. They worry when their parents are deployed. And a lot of times they miss out on life in the U.S., Little League, Fourth of July fireworks. But one group of eighth graders at a base in Italy is getting a treat. They are coming to D.C. to march in the inauguration parade. Shawn McCarthy is a U.S. history teacher at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, Italy. And he joins us on the line. Hi, there.

SHAWN MCCARTHY: Hello, Kelly. Great to be with you.

MCEVERS: Your group is called Kids Overseas. What will the kids do in the parade?

MCCARTHY: So we had a ceremony before we left Sigonella. About a week before we left Sigonella, we had a 8-by-12-foot flag that's hung in our school for about 10 years. And our students have brought that with them to march down Pennsylvania Avenue not just as a representative of our school but to represent all the students both - you know, we have 73,000 kids in our schools.

There's 23,000 that serve in the States. But we have 50,000 that serve overseas. And I'll tell you what's really crazy is that we can't walk off the base, really, with a bunch of American stuff on. You know, we have to understand that when we're - we try to keep our volumes fairly low. We don't want to wear a lot of insignia on our shirts.

For these kids to walk down the middle of the street with an 8-by-12 American flag - I mean, it's just - I'm a military kid, too. I just can't imagine being able to do that. The next day, they're going to get on a plane and come back to Italy. For some kids, they'll be out of the States for the next two years.

MCEVERS: You know, you said that the kids serve. That's an interesting way of putting it. You know, I wouldn't have thought of it that way - that they themselves are also serving in some way.

MCCARTHY: So I will tell you that came - we had a meeting today. And I let them know that I was going to have an opportunity to chat with you. And so I said - because, quite frankly, I know you want to know about them, and I'm just kind of a medium to help you learn a little bit more about them. So I said, you know, what should I tell Kelly about who you guys are? And so they said three things, OK?

So the first one was, we're normal kids. Of course, they're saying that when they, you know, got a half carton of milk in their hand with a sweatshirt on their head. So yes, they are definitely normal kids. The second thing was, we travel a lot. And the third thing that they wanted you to know is, when our parents serve, we serve.

MCEVERS: Wow. You know, some groups that have been invited to participate in the inauguration have, you know, faced some dilemmas about whether or not to do so. Did you have any friction among the kids about this with parents?

MCCARTHY: You know, that's a very good question. I can say that it was a very long process to get approval to bring the students to the States, as it should be. It's a big trip. And we let the parents know. And the students signed up at the end of October. But we didn't actually buy the tickets until just after the election.

And I can say not a single parent changed their mind. Not a single child changed their mind because we weren't there to support a given candidate. We're there to support the United States. And so it's apolitical in that regard. We're there to experience history. It's a focus on America, our capital. And, certainly, part of that is the inauguration.

MCEVERS: Shawn McCarthy is a U.S. history teacher at a defense department school at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy. Thank you very much.

MCCARTHY: Thank you, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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