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Today's Family Magazine

Celebrate the real meaning of Memorial Day with your children

By Rebecca Hastings

While we all enjoy a day off and throw some burgers on the grill, teaching kids about Memorial Day is an important way to honor our country and all who served.  But it can feel hard to know what to say, how to make it memorable, and ways to make a difference.  These simple tips will help!

What is Memorial Day?
The last Monday of May is set aside for one simple thing: remembering those who have died during active military service.  Technically, it is set aside to honor only those who have died.  However, it is often observed as a celebration of the USA with American flags, parades, and cookouts.

But what about Veterans Day?
Many people get confused between Memorial Day and Veterans Day because they both celebrate people who have served our country.  While Memorial Day is specific to those who died while serving, Veteran’s Day is a chance to honor all those who have served in the US military.  These people can still be living, and it is always November 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I.

What can we do?
There are many ways we can celebrate and honor those who lost their lives during active military service.  Even the freedom to have a cookout and be with family in freedom is a way to honor their sacrifice.

Read a book:
There are many children’s books that show the value of the men and women who serve our country and highlight patriotism.  To go a little deeper about Memorial Day, “The Wall” by Eve Bunting which tells the story of a child visiting the Vietnam War Memorial is a great choice for preschool ages up.

Plant a flag:
Memorial Day is the perfect time to leave flags on the graves of local military men and women.  Small flags can be purchased online or locally.  Just be sure to check with the cemetery for guidelines.

Sing along:
Learn a song that celebrates America.  Great options for kids include The Star-Spangled Banner and You’re a Grand Old Flag.  You can find age-appropriate sing-alongs online to enjoy.

Say thank you:
Memorial Day can be hard for those who have lost someone in military service.  Teach kids to recognize that these people have sacrificed something for the freedom we all have.  A simple thank you, a card or a kind gesture goes a long way.

Make a flag:
There are endless ways you can teach kids about the American Flag.  Be creative! Try making a flag-themed dessert or coloring a big flag in your driveway with sidewalk chalk.  Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you have plenty of red, white, and blue!

Watch a Memorial Day parade:
Full of fun, music, and festivity, a Memorial Day parade is a great way to celebrate while still remembering the meaning of the holiday.  Teach kids the importance of standing when the flag or military service members walk by.  These simple things go a long way in showing honor.

Adopt a military family:
The reality of Memorial Day is always on the minds of those with someone in the military.  Consider choosing a military family to show extra kindness to by sending them cards, making a meal, or inviting them to join you for holidays.  These little acts of kindness go a long way.

Enjoy time with your family and friends:
When you think about Memorial Day consider the cost paid by the men and women who lost their lives serving our country.  Think about the cost to their families, friends, and communities when they lost the person they cared about.  Each one of those who died serving our country did so for freedom.  We reap the benefits of their sacrifice.

That makes it even more important to celebrate.  Spend time with the people you love.  Enjoy a beautiful late spring day.  Play and rest and live knowing that this too honors those who died.  It is for this kind of life that they served our country.

If you lost someone
Memorial Day takes on a different feeling for those who have lost someone in service to the United States.   If someone you love died serving our country, know that their sacrifice, as well as your own, is seen and honored.  May we always remember.