Memorial Day signifies the official beginning of summer. The weather is warm, barbecue season is in full swing and all the big stores bust out their best Memorial Day sales. As much fun as the holiday is, many people today forget the true meaning of it. So, it’s just as important to teach your children the reason that Memorial Day exists, and just why the country pauses on this day to remember so many fallen heroes.
Steven W. Giles is a Vietnam Veteran who runs the Vietnam Veteran Facebook Page, a news delivery group and community for all veterans of the Vietnam War. With more than 11,000 likes, the active page is a landing place for Veterans seeking news, information or support from other Veterans.
“I know there are a lot of other pages out there,” Giles says. “But I bring news that is current and directly for the Vietnam Vet.”
When it comes to Memorial Day, Giles explains just how important that distinction between Veterans Day and Memorial Day really is.
“Remember, there is a difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day,” Giles explains. “Veterans Day is for those that have served in any capacity in any war, while for Memorial Day, we are to be respectful of those in the military who have died in all the conflicts.”
In terms of educating today’s youth, it’s more important than ever before to make sure they understand just why this holiday exists.
“I think it’s important because soon people will never remember,” Giles states. “They won’t remember the wars, they won’t remember the sacrifices the soldiers went through for us to be able to go to the store and buy things on that day. That’s the important thing. The remembrance. Not of a particular war, but of those who have gone before us and have unfortunately died for our freedoms.”
It’s also important, as Giles offers, to remember that nearly everyone in this country has someone who has fought in a war or been impacted by a loss in wartime. “It could be an aunt, an uncle, a father or mother or grandparent. This is the day to be thinking of those who died.”
There are a lot of different ways that you can teach your child what Memorial Day is really about. Most large cities have some type of Memorial Day celebration, parade or festival, which is a great place to start that conversation. There are several online resources that can help you find ways to approach the subject with your children as well, like this fun online scavenger hunt using the internet to answer questions about Memorial Day, or this page with crafts, worksheets, coloring pages and other ideas to teach younger children about the day.
Start making your plans for the holiday now by checking local websites to see what activities are happening in your city and you can make a plan to properly educate your child on the importance of Memorial Day. It may also help start the dialogue if you visit any nearby veterans memorials or even head to a local library to research about specific wars together. If your child is older, watch a film or documentary about a war, and start a conversation about all the sacrifices Veterans have made.
Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.