If you are like most Americans, it’s hard to remember what day our country celebrates Memorial Day. Signifying the unofficial start of summer each year, it always falls on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day 2016 will take place on Monday, May 30th. But there is a lot more to the holiday than welcoming summer. Memorial Day has a rich history, and is a great opportunity to honor the men and women who have served the United States of America as soldiers.
To many Americans, youth in particular, Memorial Day is a day off of work and school, associated with afternoon barbecues and discount mattresses. It’s a day of rest and relaxation, but often becomes detached from its original purpose.
While you are enjoying the long weekend, we recommend that you take the time to remember the soldiers who fought for their country and teach your children to do the same. The impact of nations at odds with men and women dying in the process is a heavy concept for younger audiences. Here are some activities that will help you to celebrate Memorial Day 2016 with intention and respect:
Initially called “Decorations Day,” Memorial Day was birthed from the Civil War. Although the custom of decorating soldier’s graves dates long before America’s internal war, the mid-19th century saw a larger cultural impact with the ceremony. Women in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, decorated the graves of soldiers with memorials in appreciation for their sacrifice. Decorations Day was first officially observed on May 30th, 1868.
After World War I the holiday was designated as a day to honor all American soldiers who have died in war. Whereas Veterans Day celebrates all those who have served, Memorial Day recognizes those who fell. The version of Memorial Day known to us today was moved to the last Monday in May by the National Holiday Act of 1971. This has ensured that every year it will fall on a three-day weekend.
Take the time to learn about members of your family who served. Ask them appropriate questions like “What was your job?” and “Where did you travel to?”. You may not have known that they could repair a helicopter or that they have been to over 20 countries. Listen mindfully and you’ll probably hear some really interesting stories and gain a deeper appreciation for service members.
You may also have family members now deceased who served. Children may ask their parents about their grandfather’s service; find some pictures of him in uniform to show the family or relics that he may have brought back from overseas. Explain the historical significance of any items you find.
The flag of the United States is a symbol for the ability to live the life that you choose. The freedom of press, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of religion are basic human privileges that, historically and currently, entire populations were never given the opportunity to have.
The American flag is a physical representation of these values. Displaying an American flag on your porch can open the door to conversation with your children about what war is and why some people choose to defend their nation. Just as important, use it as an opportunity to discuss the ideology that the United States was founded upon: that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
If you see a man or woman with a “WWII” ballcap or wearing their dress whites, stop for a moment, shake their hand and say thank you. It’s a chapter of their life that they are proud of, a decision that shaped the rest of their life, and the sacrifices they made can easily be taken for granted by others. As generations of veterans get older, they often appreciate younger generations acknowledging their service.
John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s, life for one’s friends.” Many of the men and women who have fought for the United States have been willing to lay down their lives for others, and have thus exemplified this Christian value. Let us honor them for that.
As you get ready to celebrate Memorial Day 2016, take the time to remember the soldiers who have died in service to this countries, and take the time to teach your children how to honor them as well.
Do you have a particular way that you will use to teach your children about Memorial Day 2016? Please share it with us in the comment section below.