Memorial Day a Different Way :: Teaching Our Children to Honor the Fallen

Memorial Day a Different Way :: Teaching Our Children to Honor the Fallen

Memorial Day weekend is an exciting time in our home. Our children always look forward to the long weekend, a birthday celebration {with three kids’ birthdays in a two-week window, they are sharing their celebrations for life}, and time away from school. My husband and I look forward to gathering with friends, family, barbequing, a few cold ones, and lots of laughter!

When our city began to shut down for safety, I held little hope for gathering in that way this year. But, honestly, I’m thankful for the opportunity to reinvent our Memorial Day traditions as a family. For too long we have let the real meaning behind this day fly under the radar in favor of a party for the {unofficial} start of Summer.

My husband is a combat veteran who did three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan during the War on Terror. We talk often about his time overseas, but this is a subject that we have, by and large, sheltered our children from. Because, the reality is, it hurts. Memorial Day celebrations are particularly painful because it broaches a nagging question in the heart of many veterans: “why did I get to come home, but my brother didn’t?” So, this year, we sat down and talked about what new traditions we could create together to educate our kids about the reason we honor this day, and the heroes who fell in service to our country. Here are some of the ideas we came up with and recommendations we have for you as you plan your celebration.

Memorial Day Education

Leading up to Memorial Day, we plan to spend some time looking at the history of Memorial Day. You can read all about its origin, transformation from Decoration Day, and establishment as a federal holiday here. 

We are also going to explore the Arlington National Cemetery website. Though the cemetery is currently closed to visitors, they have awesome resources that allow you to explore the beauty and history of the cemetery from home. 

You can also check out the ANC Facebook page to watch a short video on the history of Memorial Day, the incredible dedication to the upkeep of these hallowed grounds, and preparation of Memorial Day services.

Arlington National Cemetery is also home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If you have never learned about this revered place and the changing of the guard,  I highly recommend reading about it or watching it as a family. 

Honor and Remember

Take a moment to remember why we celebrate. If you didn’t know, there is one already built into Memorial Day. At 3pm local time you can join thousands of others in a moment of remembrance. This can be a moment of quiet reverence, a time for prayer, or a time to reflect on the things you are thankful for, the things we might take for granted in our celebrations.

Say the names of fallen heroes. Your voice helps their legacy to live on. If you know someone who gave their life in service, share a memory. If you don’t know anyone personally, spend a few minutes checking out Honor the Fallen from Military Times.  Here you can see the faces of and read about military heroes. It had a profound impact on my heart to simply gaze into their eyes.

Listen to taps. And get a tissue ready.

Continue to Celebrate

This post, by no means, is meant to deter you from celebrating on Memorial Day. Brave men and women gave their lives to serve our country so that we might continue to live and enjoy the freedoms they fought for. However, I urge you to not let complacency and the excitement of getting out of the house overshadow the real reason we gather, or the recommended safety measures still in place. If you are gathering with friends and family {in a socially distant way, of course} try starting off your time together with a moment of silence or by listening to taps. And then, live and love loudly. Be joyful, eat the brisket, drink the beer.

And, for the love, wash your hands.

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  1. Thoughtfully written and awesome resources! I did these with my kids and it brought our focus to those we honor on Memorial Day. Their sacrifice is so important to teach kids but can be difficult to know where to start. Thank you for this Sara! And thank you to your husband for his service!


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