“Tell me again, Mama!” he asked, shifting in his bed to find a more comfortable position. “Tell me another story about Grandpa Dave!”
Bedtime stories born from family history had become the thread that wove my young sons into the fabric of family whom they had never met and would never know. This was not necessarily an intentional strategy in the beginning. It was rather one of those family practices that began by happenstance, occurring organically.
When my preschool sons found their grandfather’s military hats during a storage clean-out, they were enthralled. When they learned that these were the ACTUAL hats their grandad wore on the battlefield, and during important military service, the hats took on a magic all their own.
Connecting my children to our rich military history is important to me because it defines my life in so many ways. I was an Army Brat, born to an officer and two-time Vietnam veteran. My dad served a 20-year career, and died at 47 due to Agent Orange related cancer. He had volunteered to serve in an unpopular war because he held military service in such high regard, despite the politics behind the conflict. He was a highly decorated Lieutenant Colonel who earned a Purple Heart, along with multiple Bronze Star commendations. He maintained a tight lip when it came to all that he had endured and seen, along with his heroic actions. But I knew, even as a little girl, that there were cracks in his armor, because his deep love of America would show when tears welled up in his eyes during the National Anthem. I learned by osmosis the importance of respecting those who serve in our military.
My dad’s service is just one of millions of stories. My father-in-law served as a Marine. My husband and I both have grandfathers who served in World War II, and we have another family member who did search and recovery missions at the Pentagon after 9/11.
For every one of the lives that these stories represent, we are tasked with teaching our children the importance of Veteran’s Day. It’s not just a reason to hold a sale or enjoy a day off.
It’s a distinct privilege to express gratitude to those who have served for the freedoms we daily enjoy. Unlike Memorial Day, which is to commemorate those who have lost their lives in service, Veteran’s Day is a time to honor all those who have served. Here are some ideas on how to involve our children in honoring our veterans with this national holiday.
Tell your family stories. Ask your family members to share their own stories of military service. Those who have seen combat often won’t wish to discuss it, but they would likely be happy to express why they served in the military or how they felt wearing their uniform. Mine for the treasures in your own family history and pass them on to your children. Or, reach out to a veteran you know, and take them to dinner as a family to hear their stories and honor them.
Plant flags or properly display your own. Even for children too young to grasp difficult subjects such as death, planting flags at the National Cemetery is a tangible task that expresses a reverence and gratitude for those who have served in the military. Another option is to purchase a flag as a family and then properly display it at your house, or be part of planting flags in your neighborhood.
Make a care package for deployed military personnel. Packing and shipping a box with goodies and handwritten notes to thank a soldier is a great way to involve even young kids in celebrating Veteran’s Day. Check out www.supportourtroops.org as an excellent resource for what to pack and where to send your box.
Write notes or draw pictures for VA or military hospital patients. Writing a thank-you note or drawing a picture to thank someone for their service is a great activity with children of all ages. It connects them to a soldier in a personal way. You can also include a note to the family of a veteran who is receiving medical care through facilities such as Fisher House in Dallas.
Show up for Veteran’s Day activities. Take your kids to purchase hand held flags, and then show up for the military by standing on the curb and cheering at the Fort Worth’s Veteran’s Day Parade on Saturday, November 11, starting at 11:00 a.m. in downtown Fort Worth. The parade begins at the Tarrant County Courthouse.
While the flag and freedoms might be a hot topic these days, there is no debating the importance of teaching the next generation to show respect and gratitude for the military service of past generations. We can do this every day by thanking men and women in uniform for their service, picking up the tab for a soldier at the coffee shop, and helping our children feel connected to those who nobly defend our country.