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At a school that knows loss, switching from kid to soldier

Magruder High School in Rockville has lost more of its students in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other school in the Washington region, so when the students in the school's Junior ROTC program consider signing up for the military, their parents, teachers and advisers struggle with them over their decisions.

[Magruder High School]Platoon leader Maggie O'Connor, 2nd left, and Basem Sharaf, left, help a cadet use a rope bridge during drills as part of the JROTC program at Magruder High School, which lists four graduates killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)  
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Washington Post reporter Chris Davenport continues his series on the Impact of War with a visit to Magruder and students who sometimes seem oblivious to the war, teachers who wonder how best to advise their kids, and families trying to figure out the right path forward.

Then, starting Monday, April 26, this blog will feature discussions about the Impact of War led by people who know best--you'll hear from returning veterans, families of those serving in the two wars, experts on veterans benefits, family counselors, and people who've been looking at the images of these wars in our pop culture. Each week, we'll talk about another aspect of the war and how it's hitting home. Your voice is essential to this endeavor and we want to hear not only your thoughts and experiences, but also your ideas about what topics and questions this blog should address. Please post your ideas on the comment board below or send them to Chris Davenport at

From the story:

The young warriors have been dead for months, even years, but still the flag at Magruder High School in Rockville flies at half-staff.
Normally, it would have been raised long ago, but the old soldier doesn't care. The dead, all four of them, participated in his Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Magruder. Then they enlisted. Then they went to war. Then they were killed.
So retired Army Sgt. Maj. Sergeant Major John Ohmer keeps Old Glory as a symbol of mourning in a courtyard across the hall from a glass-encased memorial he has created for his former cadets.
He hopes students shuffling past on the way to class might stop and wonder why the flag is always lowered. Maybe they'll see something of themselves in the young faces staring back through the glass.
The flag and pictures of the dead are Ohmer's unwritten homework assignment for the school: What do the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan mean to you?

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By Marc Fisher  |  April 19, 2010; 3:07 PM ET
 | Tags: Iraq War, afghanistan, chris davenport, impact of war, magruder high, rockville  
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