Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ten Steps To A Meaningful Veterans Day

1. Talk about why there's no school. Talk about what it means to be a "veteran" and how the holiday is meant to honor the life of any person who's ever worn a military uniform, standing up for the freedoms we have in this country.

2. Talk about who the family knows that's ever worn a military uniform. If the kids have no clue, that's a jumping off point for learning and a sense of wonder. My kids learned their Poppa and their Grandad (as well as my Dad and their great-grandfathers) served in the military. There are many others we didn't identify -- those people can be added to the mental list throughout the year.

3. Have your kids call the veterans they know to wish them Happy Veterans Day. Encourage them to ask questions. My kids called Grandad and learned he'd served 20 years in the Air Force and National Guard, and that he'd served abroad in Korea and Germany, to name a couple places. They learned Poppa served in Europe, where the Army sent him to film projector school. Note: the tones of their conversations might be different -- this is also wonderful and fun.

4. Print up coloring pages from the web for the kids to color. We printed up a soldier in combat gear, a cat in a uniform, a Special Forces character, and a woman reading a list of missing soldiers at a wall. These pages inspired artistic outlet (they loved creating their own camouflage, guessing what color a stripe or badge should be, and making the cat look like a fox); they also inspired thoughtful conversation -- especially the woman at the missing soldiers list.

5. Buy two bouquets the day before Veterans Day and plan to take the kids to the cemetery to lay flowers at soldiers' graves. With a flower or two per grave, you should be able to honor at least twenty or thirty soldiers.

6. Prep the kids with a list of how they might identify a soldier's gravestone. My kids each carried a post-it that read:

Lt. = Leutenant
Col. = Colonel
Gen. = General
Pvt. = Private
Maj. = Major
Sgt. = Sergeant

Note: you may feel you don't know enough. That's okay. My list worked fine, but I was able to identify that I have no idea how the ranking system works -- that's something to research or ask a veteran -- and I left many options out. (Corporal comes to mind.) I probably could've written the different military branches, too.

7. Hit the cemetery on Veterans Day. We walked, carrying the bouquets and umbrellas, wearing rainboots and raincoats.

8. Walk through the graveyard together at first, and then separately, if desired. Our first soldier had an easy give-away on his stone: World War I. There were many WWI and WWII veteran headstones -- something we hadn't anticipated, but now makes sense.

9. Invite family or friends to join you. We invited the cousins and the kids all worked to find places to lay their flowers. It was really sweet.

10. Brainstorm about how you might honor soldiers next year. For instance, I realized it would've been nice to honor living veterans next year -- say, at a VA hospital or Soldiers Home -- and the kids thought we should do something with flags.


Anonymous said...

This should be published in your local newspaper. What do you think?

It's just wonderful what you did with your kids and their cousins!!! & certainly you benifited, too.

Thank God for the nurturing you've received from your Mom, Don, your Dad and grandparents and kin. You've become such a loving, caring and sensitive person. God is smiling and thinking, 'well done'. Keep on keeping on.
We're blessed to have you in our lives.

JJJ & Mike

Keri Hull said...

You are such a good Mom and such a good person! I love to check in on your blog!

Have a great day!

Shelby said...

You should TOTALLY homeschool!