Memorial Day Weekend in the United States is celebrated as the unofficial beginning of summer. Many people across the country plan cookouts, trips to the beach or lake, and attend summer parties. But Memorial Day means so much more than a celebration of summer. Here are eight Memorial Day activities to help you teach your children about why we honor our servicemen and women.
Memorial Day is a time to honor and remember military men and women who bravely fought for our freedom and died for our country. Today I would like to pay tribute to our heroes and say thank you for their great service.
If you didn’t already know, I am an Army veteran wife. My husband served active duty for 8.5 years in the United States Army. He medically separated from the Army in March 2015 because of an injury he incurred during a deployment. But I am not just an Army veteran wife. I come from a military family and I grew up in an Army town.
I am also the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran (retired 23 years U.S. Army) and an Army nurse veteran. Both of my parents served active duty in the United States Army. My father served in the Vietnam War as a combat medic and paratrooper.
Later, he served as an Army nurse. My mother also served in the Army as a nurse. My sister and brother-in-law served in the Air Force. Coming from a military family, I know what it means to honor our armed forces and show great respect for their time in service.
I remember attending a Veteran’s Day ceremony with my husband, children, and father. My older son Elijah had won an essay writing contest for his essay on honoring my father for his time in service.
When we arrived at the event, one of the event coordinators came over to us to welcome us to the ceremony. When she approached my father she gave him a big hug and thanked him for his service. Then she looked at him and said, “Welcome home.” My father humbly smiled and said, “thank you.”
It made me a little teary-eyed because I could see how much the event coordinator’s greeting meant to my father. It was one of those moments where I felt very proud to be my father’s daughter.
I looked around the room and saw many war veterans were in attendance at the Veteran’s Day ceremony. They were veterans who had served during wartime and were being honored by their grandchildren. It was such a moving experience and it made me feel proud to have come from an Army family and be married to an Army Solider.
Why We Should Celebrate Memorial Day
To honor the fallen – many men and women fought bravely for our country and died during their time in service. We should take the time to honor them and pay our respects to their great sacrifice.
To honor our country – When we honor the fallen on Memorial Day we are also honoring our country. If it wasn’t for countless numbers of military servicemen and women who serve our country, we would not have the freedoms we enjoy and value today.
To honor people who have lost their loved ones – Many people have lost a loved one who served in the armed forces. Therefore, Memorial Day is a very special time for them to remember their loved ones.
When my husband was in the Army, there were times we would hear of Soldiers who had died in combat. It always saddened me because I knew they were leaving behind a family and quite possibly a spouse and their children.
I know when you lose a loved one you couldn’t possibly just remember them one day out of the year. However, Memorial Day is a special time to support people who have lost their loved ones. It is a time for us to come together as a country and show our love and respect for the fallen and their families.
History of Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. According to HISTORY.com, Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day” and it was first observed a few years after the Civil War. Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971.
The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.
By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers. – “Memorial Day”, HISTORY.com
PBS gives a May 30, 1868 date of when what is now called Memorial Day was first observed. During this time, it was observed to “commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers” (“The History of Memorial Day”, PBS.org)
How Americans Celebrate Memorial Day to Honor the Fallen
- Attend or participate in Memorial Day parades.
- Volunteer to work with veterans.
- Place small-sized flags in rows in a field, yard, or at a place of business.
- Decorate their homes with American flags, wreaths, and other American-themed decorations.
- Attend a church service in honor of Memorial Day.
- Plan a cookout to spend time with family and friends.
- Visit military cemeteries to place flags on servicemen and women’s gravesites.
8 MEMORIAL DAY ACTIVITIES TO CELEBRATE WITH YOUR FAMILY
1. MAKE A DIY PATRIOTIC WREATH. You can make a DIY red, white, and blue wreath for your front door or home. Here’s a tutorial I found from Anika’s DIY Life to show you how to make the wreath.
2. ADOPT A PLATOON OR DONATE TO THE USO. This would be a great way to teach the kids about showing our military servicemen and women their appreciation for their service. Your children can make cards or send letters to our troops. They even accept care packages. Click HERE for more details.
You can also donate or volunteer at the USO. When Travis was in the Army, we often visited the USO for special activities and luncheons. It’s a great program that supports the military. For more information about the USO, click HERE.
3. PAINT PATRIOTIC DESIGNS ON ROCKS. Rock painting can be a fun activity for kids. We collected rocks in our neighborhood and painted patriotic designs on them. After painting the rocks, we put them in our front garden.
4. VOLUNTEER TO DECORATE VETERANS’ GRAVESITES WITH FLAGS AND FLOWERS. Many people and organizations volunteer to place flags or wreaths on veterans’ graves. It’s a special way to honor our military servicemen and women. You can contact your nearest veterans’ cemetery or a military base for more information on this.
5. COLOR MEMORIAL DAY COLORING PAGES. I found a few coloring pages at Crayola.com and Wounded Warrior Project for Memorial Day. This would be a great visual aid for teaching kids about the meaning of Memorial Day!
6. ATTEND A LOCAL MEMORIAL DAY PARADE. Some cities and towns host a Memorial Day parade to honor our military. The city we live in has one every year! This would be another great Memorial Day activity to do with your family.
7. MAKE AN AMERICAN FLAG USING CRAFT STICKS. We painted craft sticks to make an American flag. The kids really enjoyed this activity!
8. CHECK OUT BOOKS ABOUT MEMORIAL DAY FROM THE LIBRARY. Another great way to teach your children about Memorial Day is to check out books from the library. You can even find some library books featuring Memorial Day crafts.
CAN’T VISIT THE LIBRARY?
If you’re not able to visit your local library, then you can check out ebooks through the library’s website. You can also order books from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
This Memorial Day Weekend, as you are celebrating the beginning of the summer season, take some time to honor the brave men and women who died fighting for our country.
Whether you attend a special Memorial Day service, create learning activities with your children, or take personal time for reflection, we can all do something in our own special way to pay tribute to the fallen.