What does Memorial Day mean to you? Is it just another 3-day holiday weekend for picnics, barbeques, and baseball games? Do your children grasp the importance or the sheer number of American men and women who have died in serving our country, so we might enjoy freedom? According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, over 1.3 million men and women have died while serving our country from the Revolutionary War in 1775 through the current War on Terror in Afghanistan. In addition, more than 1.5 million have been wounded in conflict. These are staggering statistics that should cause every homeschool family to actively remember that freedom is never really free.
Although the origins of Memorial Day are difficult to pinpoint, it was officially proclaimed Decoration Day in May of 1868 by General John Logan and first observed at Arlington National Cemetery to remember the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. Logan's General Order No. 11 said, "Gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them choicest flowers of springtime...let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us."
Although Memorial Day was observed on May 30 for many years, Congress passed the National Holiday Act in 1971 which declared Memorial Day to be celebrated on the last Monday in May and a time to honor all Americans who died fighting in any war. Since an in-depth study of U.S. history shows that nearly every generation of Americans has known war, almost every family has an ancestor, neighbor, friend, or loved one who has paid the ultimate sacrifice for the pleasures we enjoy today. In light of so great a sacrifice, what can you do to keep the "memorial" in Memorial Day while homeschooling your children this year? Try the following ideas:
1. Visit a cemetery near your home and place flags and flowers on the graves of soldiers, especially those whose graves appear to be forgotten or unattended. Although walking through a grave yard may seem uncomfortable or unpleasant, so was the suffering of those individuals who died for our freedoms. Plus, don't miss your unique opportunity to speak to your child's spiritual understanding of death, heaven, and eternity with the Lord.
2. Attend a patriotic parade or Memorial Day celebration in your area. Call the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post or check with your local newspaper to locate an observance near you.
3. Purchase artificial red poppies made by disabled veterans and support today's servicemen in need. You could also pledge to volunteer or make a donation to veteran's groups that provide outreach services and grief counseling to military families.
4. Visit a military memorial in your hometown. Let your children read the names of those from your community who have given so much to keep our country free. If you don't have the time or resources to visit a memorial, you could use the Internet to visit the websites for U. S. war memorials like the Tomb of the Unknowns, and the Korean, Vietnam, and World War II memorials.
5. Fly the American flag (half-staff until noon) on Memorial Day and teach your children the other proper etiquette rules of displaying it proudly as found in the National Flag Code.
6. Bake cookies for a veteran's hospital or bring flowers to say thank you to those who survived while serving in the armed services. Ask your pastor for names of church members who are veterans that your children could meet personally and thank.
7. Adopt a serviceman or woman who is currently serving overseas and write letters, send gifts, and pray.
Whatever activity you choose, educate and remind your children of the true meaning of Memorial Day. More than a time of fun with family and friends, Memorial Day is a time to remember, reflect, and honor those who have given their all in service to the United States.