I wanted to write about Veteran’s day to honor my husband who was an Iraq vet. With his death being so recent I really struggled with finding the right words to convey my feelings. Luckily I stumbled upon an article written by Michelle Volkman which details how educators and families can help teach the importance of Veterans Day.
Veterans Day isn’t child-friendly. The holiday stems from solemn and emotional roots. It can be abstract. (What’s a hero?) It can be philosophical. (Why do people fight wars?) It can be geographical. (Where’s France?)
There isn’t an abundance of educational resources available for parents of young children to help explain the often overlooked Armistice Day. But if we want the next generation to understand the importance of November 11, beyond a day off of school, we have a duty to teach our children about Veterans Day.
The meaning of Veterans Day can be taught in 3 simple steps: Talk, Create, and Replicate.
Talk: Explain Veterans Day
Placing a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery
Introduce the holiday by showing your young one a November calendar. Point to November 11 and say “Tuesday is Veterans Day.” Ask your child if he or she understands the word veteran. Has he heard it before? Explain that veterans are people who served in the military (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard). Then ask if they know anyone who is a veteran? Tell them that veterans are everywhere. Be ready to rattle off the names of people your child knows who have served in the Armed Forces. Tell your child that Veterans Day is a day to thank veterans for their service to our country.
Incorporate a patriotic- or Veterans Day-themed book into your nightly reading routine. I recommend “Veterans: Heroes in Our Neighborhood by Valerie Pfundstein, “H Is for Honor: A Military Family Alphabet” by Devin Scillian, and “Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion,” by Jane Barclay. Barclay’s book is one of the few children’s books about war and remembrance. Consider listening and singing patriotic songs like “American the Beautiful,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag” or “My Country ‘tis of Thee.”
Create: Send Candy and Cards
Through Operation Gratitude’s Operation Candy Give-Back Program, http://www.operationgratitude.com, families can donate their Halloween candy to troops serving overseas. You must separate the chocolate from the non-chocolate treats. Ask your child to create a drawing to include in the care package and write “Thank You” on it. Act quickly. The candy must arrive by November 15.
Operation Gratitude is one of several organizations who put letters of gratitude into the hands of veterans and Wounded Warriors. Ask your preschoolers to draw a picture while you write a letter of thanks. You can also send Veterans Day cards to deployed friends or veterans in your family.
I’m planning to create a “Remember Our Veterans: Family & Friends” flag poster with my 4-year-old daughter. In each star, I will write a name of a veteran (living or deceased). My daughter obviously knows that her father is in the Navy, but she doesn’t know that her maternal grandfather was stationed in Italy with the Army for two years or that her uncle was a Marine during the Gulf War. This flag will be displayed in our house during the entire month of November.
Replicate: Model Gratitude
In my opinion, the best way we can teach our children to be grateful for the sacrifices of American veterans are through our words and actions. Buy a red poppy from the American Legion Auxiliary Poppy Program. Volunteer with local or national organizations that support veterans. Ask elderly family members or neighbors to share PG-rated stories of their military experiences with your child. And always thank a veteran for their service.