Memorial Day often feels like the start of summer, the moment we take a breath and relax for a long weekend. For some it is the day we pull out the camper or work on the yard. However, Memorial Day is intended to be a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Many visit cemeteries and memorials and some place flowers or flags at gravestones.
In my family, we have done our best to introduce our daughters to the idea of remembering those who have gone before us. We try to help them understand that there are men and women who protect our country, and that it is important to show our gratitude. We teach them to show respect to the flag and to men and women in uniform. We visit the cemetery with them to put flowers on their grandmother’s grave, and we talk about why some graves have little flags on them. However, last summer on our vacation, we had a moment that made me realize what impacts their understanding most is real conversation and experiences. We were taking our girls to see Mount Rushmore for the very first time and took our seat to view the lighting ceremony. Both girls were exhausted, but we wanted them to have the “full experience.” As we sat waiting, a couple sat down in front of us, and it wasn’t long before our chattering girls drew their attention. The man turned around with a smile on his face and struck up a conversation. He asked why where we were from, and why we were visiting. After telling him, we asked him the same. He told us that he was there to stand up for the ceremony honoring Service Men and Women. Our oldest then asked him what he would do up there. He explained that when he came back from war, there weren’t many people that were excited about what he did. But during this ceremony he would stand up by the flag in front of Mount Rushmore and be honored for his service for the first time. He then asked her if she would stand up. She grinned and said yes. I pretended like I wasn’t all choked up. We then continued conversation about life, about kids, about courage, about everything. The couple seemed like the kind of folks that don’t have anyone stay strangers for long. When the moment came for him to walk to the front and join the many other men and women who had all served our country, my daughter jumped to her feet. The man’s wife looked back and smiled. As the music started and I watched tears fill the man’s eyes, I found myself crying as well. The conversation that followed in the car with my kids afterwards was priceless. I realized then, I didn’t even ask his name. We had the chance to thank him for his service but didn’t think to thank him for sharing his story with our family. Meeting him was a gift.
Not every family is going to have a moment like we did where the values we were trying to instill in our kids were supported by a chance meeting with a stranger. We all need to choose experiences for our families that support what we want for our children.
On Memorial Day, consider discussing ways you can help your children connect with the purpose of this holiday.
- Visit veterans in a long term care facility.
- Create and send a care package
- Write a personal note or color a picture
- Help your child relate by connecting them with children who experience the sacrifice of having a parent serving in the military. Support Operation Military Kids.
For information on some the services that LSS can provide to veterans, please visit our previous post.
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