Veterans Day is a time when our country honors all who have served the nation in wartime and in peace. It can be a difficult holiday to explain to military children, who grow up surrounded by our military and may take the military lifestyle for granted. This annual observance offers an important opportunity to teach children about respect for veterans and all they have done for our country.
Here are some unique ways to explain and share Veterans Day with your military child:
Learn the facts.
Remember that Veterans Day honors the living, while Memorial Day is a separate holiday that honors those who have died. The holiday is celebrated on Nov. 11 because that was originally Armistice Day after World War I. Look up additional facts before having a Veterans Day discussion with your kids.
Write letters or cards.
Even though I was in 3rd grade when Desert Storm began, I still remember the card I sent to troops overseas. That letter to an anonymous soldier helped connect me to a historical event on the other side of the world. Our kids may be too young to understand the details of war, but they are never too young to form a connection with a deployed service member and thank them for their sacrifices. Use any of the resources and companies listed on Operation We are Here to help your child draw a picture, make a card, or send a note to a service member.
Attend a parade.
Many towns hold Veterans Day parades or celebrations. If your service member’s unit or your family is invited to participate, then enjoy the honor and use it as a teaching moment for your kids. If you’re watching from the sidelines, point out how important it is to honor and respect all veterans, even those who are elderly and haven’t served for many years.
Walk or run for veterans.
Does your town host a Veterans Day race to raise funds for veteran charities? There are numerous organizations across the country that have different events with the same goal. Encourage your child to sign up for a 5k race. If they are too young to run, help them cheer from the sidelines. Discuss how everyone there is working together to support veterans.
Watch the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
If you’re not in the DC area, you may have to watch the ceremony on TV. Every Veterans Day at 11 AM, a wreath is laid on the tomb in a formal ceremony to honor all those who fought and sacrificed in our nation’s wars. The whole nation is encouraged to pause in a moment of silence.
Do a service project.
Help your child brainstorm an act of service for a veteran. You may be able to arrange a group project at their school, such as writing cards, collecting toiletries to send overseas, or assembling holiday care packages. Perhaps there is a local veterans’ organization that has adopted a highway and needs help keeping it clean. Help them dream big to assist others!
Brush up on history.
Depending on the age of your child, Veterans Day can be educational. Ask them to calculate how old someone would be today if they were 20 years old while serving in the following wars: World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and the beginning of the Global War on Terror. Talk about America’s role in some of these wars and why they are important to our history. If you don’t know the details, research them together!
Visit a VFW.
The local VFW is a gathering place for veterans of foreign wars. This is a good way to connect your military child with veterans who are no longer active duty. Contact your local VFW to see if your family can assist on Veterans Day. Maybe they need help with a dinner, fundraiser, or service project.
Adopt a veteran.
Some veterans live alone without a support system. If you know a veteran personally, consider inviting them for dinner on Veterans Day. Otherwise, talk to local church or charity groups to see how you could “adopt” a veteran. Perhaps you could serve a meal, assist in a clothing drive, or donate canned goods to a shelter.
Honor the flag.
Honoring the flag is a way to thank and honor the veterans who fought for that flag. Boy Scout troops and some veteran organizations have flag ceremonies around Veterans Day. This is an opportunity to respectfully dispose of worn outdoor flags and replace them with fresh ones. There may be a way to involve your children in a flag drive, or you could all learn how to properly fold a flag (and what the 13 folds represent.) This is a good time to remind military kids why they stop and stand for Colors or Retreat on a military base.
Send care packages.
Even if your service member is home, help children realize there are always veterans doing their duty and serving overseas. This is a great time of year to send extra care packages to service members who don’t receive much mail. If you have a contact in a deployed unit, ask what essentials they need. If you don’t know an overseas address, then use an organization like America’s Adopt a Soldier or Troopster Donation Corp to send care packages to deployed troops.
What are some unique ways you teach your children about Veterans Day?