Saturday, November 5, 2011

Kids Can Learn a Lot About Life From Veterans

Flags for All Armed Services at Mocksville NC Veterans Memorial ©Katrena
November is one of my favorite months. The leaves in North Carolina are often quite beautiful this time of the year, and my mom's yard is usually filled with pecans for making great pecan pies or sweet potato casserole. I enjoy some relief from the hot summer months in the South, but the temperatures are usually still comfortable enough to enjoy yard work, walking with the kids, and Veterans Day programs.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts Honor Veterans on Veterans Day ©Katrena
Although many of the stores and malls bypass November and head straight for Christmas by the time November rolls around, I rather like the holidays of November because there is not as much hype and commercialism. Two big November holidays for my family are Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.

Davie County High School JROTC Color Guard Honors Veterans on Veterans Day ©Katrena
Veterans Day, celebrated in the U.S. on November 11, is often a forgotten holiday, and veterans are often forgotten heroes. My dad was a Navy pilot who graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. My mom's dad also served in the Navy as a fireman, and many other of my relatives and friends have served or are serving today.

Fireworks Photo from Wikimedia Commons

I remember asking my Papaw to go to a 4th of July celebration when I was a kid. He kindly said he would stay at home. I didn't want to take no for an answer and kept pressing him to go and asked him why he didn't want to attend such a fun activity. Finally, he looked at me and said that every time he heard fireworks, he wanted to find a rock to hide behind because it reminded him of fighting in a war. That humbled me and helped me to see another side of my tough grandfather who could build houses and had more common sense that just about anyone alive.

Veterans From All Service Branches Honored in Community Veterans Day Program ©Katrena
I assumed the matter was settled, but was amazed when my Papaw later decided he would go to the 4th of July celebration, just for me. I didn't realize how much he had sacrificed and will never completely understand, but as an adult, it brings tears to my eyes to realize what an honor it was to stand with him and watch those bursts of color in the sky.

Kids Honor Veterans With Postors and Essays for Veterans Day Program ©Katrena
I want my kids to appreciate veterans and the many people who have advocated for freedoms that we all enjoy today in the United States. I want them to understand, to whatever extent they can, that veterans and their families give up so much, and we should be grateful. Very grateful and respectful. I also want them to learn how to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.

Davie High School Plays Patriotic Songs at Veterans Day Program ©Katrena
We should know the name of the President and who represent us in Congress, our state, and our community. We should make informed decisions and vote when we are old enough. The veteran who struggles to rise from a wheelchair should not be the only one standing if the American flag goes by at a parade, and we should learn about the many symbols of our country. People of other countries who wish to become United States citizens must pass a test. Those of us who were born here should know even more about our nation and be a good example.

Flags for All Branches of Service Displayed in Front of Memorial ©Katrena
Veterans have so much to share, and I love to sit and listen to their stories, if they wish to talk. I can respect the ones who wish to remain silent as well. Some history cannot be found in books, videos, or anywhere else, and I hope that a piece of it might be transferred to the next generation by sitting and listening. Thankfully, some people are working to record that history for others. Many veterans would, without hesitation, serve again if needed and many veterans are serving today by providing military rights at funerals, encouraging fellow comrades, or helping buddies to get long overdue benefits.

Memorial for American Veterans ©Katrena
Some ways to help children to learn more about veterans and Veterans Day include:
  • Talk to veterans – if you do not personally know a veteran, many veterans in nursing homes would love to have visitors.
  • Read books about Veterans Day and American symbols, including proper flag etiquette. One of my good friends, retired Col. John Gray, wrote a book entitled Called to Honor: Memoirs of a Three-War Veteran. I highly recommend it for adults and older kids who want to get a first person account of three of our nation's wars.
  • Learn patriotic songs.
  • Attend a Veterans Day parade and program – this is yet another sacrifice that these men and women make.
  • Participate in service projects to honor and help veterans and write notes of thanks.
  • Learn about discounts and special offers for veterans in the area and ensure that veterans are aware of these programs.
Learn More About Sacrifice & Service by Visiting Veterans Memorial ©Katrena
Veterans Day is a time of reflection for many people. Saying thank you is the least we can do show appreciation for those who sacrificed more than we will ever truly know.

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