CBSN

Oh Say Can You See?

If respect for the flag can be learned, then why can't patriotism?

A little known group of former military officers say if schools aren't teaching patriotism any longer, then they will, CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports.

"We hope that the children leave with a sense of love of country. Patriotism, thatÂ's what itÂ's all about," retired Navy Capt. Rollie Stevens says.

As many as 10,000 students will be offered scholarships by the officers to attend selected conferences and events. Some of the events are designed to inspire. And some of them to impress. Expose a young mind to pride, precision and teamwork, the officers believe, and good things will happen.

Many of those selected were in programs like ROTC and some even thought they already knew what being a patriot means: "Understanding about your country and fighting for your country and just being loyal to it," says one student.

But at one stop they learned it means more than that.

"The test of character is not hanging in there when you expect a light at the end of the tunnel, but rather performance of duty and persistence of example when you know that no light is coming," says retired Marine Corps Col. David Vetter, the U.S. Naval Academy admissions officer.

At another stop they grappled to understand the Declaration of Independence. And struggled with how to explain that cherished document's inconsistencies.

Germain Bryant explained: "Back then, a Â'manÂ' was considered to be a white male IÂ'm a black male. I would not have been considered a man."

And perhaps that was the point of these patriotic scholarships - learning to love a country despite its shortcomings; seeing at Fort McHenry, as Francis Scott Key did, that some things, however imperfect, are worth fighting for.

"Now I know what the history is behind it and you just have so much respect for it now," Matthew McCurdy said.

Respect. Love. Zealous support. That intangible notion defined as patriotism.