Growing up, Memorial Day always brought a day off of school, warmer weather and cookouts. As I got older, I understood more of what this holiday was about. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with enjoying a day off, it’s important to remember the origins of Memorial Day.
Established on May 30, 1868 to honor the nation’s war dead, the holiday was originally called “Decoration Day” because people laid flowers on the graves of the fallen.
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, today’s military heroes deserve respect. There are lots of ways to teach your children to honor our nation’s defenders.
Fly a flag - today is the perfect day to put a flag outside of your house. If you have a flagpole, fly the flag at half mast, a position reserved only for days when the entire country is in mourning. Don’t have a flag? Help your little one make one from construction paper, and post it in your window, or use paint to paint your window! At 3 p.m., join others around the country and observe a moment of silent remembrance. Even kids can understand how to keep quiet for a minute.
Visit a cemetery - Many people who have lost loved ones to war take this opportunity to visit their graves, but you don’t have to be a relative to visit a National Cemetery or memorial service. Bring flowers if you like, and tell your children about the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. A cemetery can be a scary place for children, but even young children know that people die. Explaining that some die while bravely protecting others gives meaning.
Honor the living - As a family, think of ways that you can raise money for your local Veteran's Affairs or VFW groups. Have a lemonade stand this summer, or a yard sale. Search for local Veteran groups around you and see how you can help.
Send a care package - Memorial Day is about honoring those who have given their lives for our country. But, you can also help your child make a connection with one of the many soldiers who are still on the field now. Thousands of soldiers are living in dangerous places and would enjoy a gift of snacks, personal hygiene products, paper and pens, and cheery letters and pictures. To send a letter or care package to a soldier, try www.anysoldier.com