Memorial Day Learning

 Crafts are fun and can fill time, but if you want to really learn about Memorial Day, you have to learn about why America is worth fighting for and why people in the past and present have pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for freedom.

Try some of these Memorial  day activities to make it real for your kids.
This is Michelle’s husband, Cameron, on the right, swearing an oath to defend the United States Constitution. This is 2002 at the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Cameron served for ten years including one twelve month tour of duty in Iraq. Read the oath our soldiers give when they enlist to serve our country.

Explorations

Read and discuss a war poem with your kids.  Pick one from this list.

I watched the flag pass by one day. It fluttered in the breeze. A young Marine saluted it, and then he stood at ease . . . – From Freedom Isn’t Free by Kelly Long. Photo by Lance Corporal Holly A. Williams, DoD, Public Domain

Learn about some real heroes (as opposed to movie stars or sports figures).  How about George Washington, Nathan Hale, Robert E. Lee, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Abigail Adams, Molly Pitcher, Clara Barton, Alvin York, or Audie Murphy.  Pick one, read a short story or give a recap of what they did and discuss the qualities they had that made them heroes.

This is Clara Barton. She actually did stuff that you should want to idolize.

Learn about the history of Memorial Day.  Why do we celebrate it?

On Memorial Day flags or flowers are set on the graves of soldiers. Photo by Naja Johnson, CC license, Wikimedia.

Some of the symbols surrounding Memorial Day are crosses (on graves), American flags, poppies, flags at half mast, and images of soldiers from every American conflict.  Discuss some of these symbols and what they mean.

A Poppy craft to remember the soldiers by.  click on the picture to go to the craft.
A poppy craft to remember the soldiers by. Click on the picture to go to the craft.

Teach your kids how to conduct a formal flag ceremony and have one for family or friends.  Here are the basics: Have the audience stand, advance the colors, salute the flag, post the colors, have the audience sit.  You can include the pledge of allegiance, state or organization flags, short stories, poems, or quotes, or a prayer if you wish.  Look for flag ceremonies online.

Girls Scout and Boy Scout organizations are great places to learn patriotism and to participate in things like flag ceremonies. But anyone can hold a flag ceremony.

Discuss the cost of freedom.  Is it worth dying for?  Living for?  What is freedom?

This flag is being folded in honor of a soldier who sacrificed his life in Iraq in 2009. His name was Tyler Trahan.  He died serving you and defending the Constitution. Photo courtesy, US Dept of Def.

Take the time to thank a vet by sending an e-card, making a phone call or writing a letter.  This a great letter writing activity for kids.  Have them start by saying “Thank you for fighting for my freedom.  What I love about America is . . . ” or something similar.  Send the cards to soldiers at a VA hospital or soldiers currently serving in war zones.

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Teach kids about some of the military cemeteries and monuments for American soldiers: Arlington National Cemetery, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Normandy American Cemetery, Flanders Field American Cemetery, Gettysburg cemetery, and the Iwo Jima Statue are a few.  Cover why there’s a monument or cemetery there and the significance of the special respect we have for such places.

Arlington National Cemetery, where hundreds of thousands of America’s heroes lie. Photo by Ralf Roletschek, CC license, Wikimedia.

Discuss your beliefs about the role of America in the world, our origins and destiny.  For example, I believe that America was brought forth by the hand of God and as long as we are righteous and deserve His help we will have it in spreading freedom over the world.  I want to pass that belief on to my kids.  Pass your beliefs on to your kids as well.

We go to parades and wave flags and cheer because of what America stands for.
We go to parades and wave flags and cheer because of what America stands for.  Individual liberty, prosperity, and fair play.

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