As a former military family, November 11th is a special day in our home. Honoring the armistice signed by Germany and Allied troops on November 11, 1918—100 years ago today—Veterans Day is a time to esteem those past and present who have defended the nation we love. In our house, the kids ask Graham to pull out his Army uniform and tell them about his badges and crests. Often, he shares stories of the fellow soldiers he served alongside in the Philippines and Afghanistan in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2013. Sometimes, he describes the more tense situations he found himself in during convoys or helicopter rides. The kids’ eyes are about as big as saucers for those stories!
These days, not every family knows someone who serves in the military. With less direct connection to a service member, it is important to find other ways to honor veterans and their families. Consider one of these activities to engage your children in this special day.
Say thank you. Reach out to the veterans you know and personally thank them for their service to our country. Invite your children to thank a veteran for his or her courage and bravery. Don’t know a vet? Take time to write a family letter to a soldier serving overseas, a veteran, a new military recruit, or a first responder through an organization called Operation Gratitude. Letters are accepted year-round.
Attend a parade. Many cities and towns still participate in Veterans Day parades, and this year is even more special because of the 100 year anniversary of the armistice. Check your local calendar for parades and events near you.
Donate and sign up to volunteer with Wreaths Across America on December 15. Each year, in more than 1,400 locations across the United States, volunteers participate in coordinated wreath-laying ceremonies to memorialize fallen soldiers. An individual wreath sponsorship is only $15 and pays for a fresh balsam wreath with a red velvet bow to be placed on a soldier’s grave for the duration of the holiday season. My family participated in the wreath-laying event at Arlington National Cemetery last December and it was powerful.
Interview a veteran. Ask a veteran you know to participate in the Veterans History Project. Stories are submitted and archived at the Library of Congress. Interviewers have access to sample questions to help guide the process. As we lose more and more of those who served during first half of the 20th century, these stories are so important to capture.
Teach patriotism not nationalism. Modeling a love for America for the values it espouses and the ways it strives to continually improve—patriotism—is a vital lesson for the next generation. A belief in the goodness of our country and its people is what our veterans have fought and died for over the years. Making certain that our admiration isn’t confused with superiority, rivalry, tribalism, and disapproval—and emphasizing the difference between the two—will ensure that the future service members in your family take the very best ideals with them as they serve and protect.