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Honor Memorial Day: Our Children Need to Know; Freedom Isn’t Free

Every time I am near Ms. T, I can’t help but feel her energy. Her drive is never-ending for her many volunteer missions to honor her son, who was killed in action in 2011. For her, every day is Memorial Day. So, the last Monday in May isn’t much different for her or other Gold Star families who have lost service members than any other day. They recognize Memorial Day, but they never celebrate it. But most Americans do, and Gold Star Mothers like Ms. T are thankful for that.

Memorial Day, originally called Remembrance Day, is a day to honor those who were killed as they carried out their commitment to defend us. All Americans should recognize this federal holiday for what it is. The sacrifices made by some so others can be free to have a picnic, go to the beach, or play a round of golf. But do our children know this?

It is a parent’s responsibility to make sure children understand its meaning and purpose. Yes, it is taught in schools, but is it practiced in homes? Many Florida school districts end the school year on the Friday before Memorial Day. As a teacher, I reminded my students that the Monday, after we left school, was a special day and asked them to remember and honor our lost service members somehow before starting their summer celebration. But, I never really knew if my encouragement bore any fruit.

It is up to each of us as parents to ensure our children know that Memorial Day was not set aside for cookouts, parades, and start-of-summer celebrations. Families should plan BBQs and enjoy time together. But, during that fun weekend, there should be a moment in which we honor those who sacrificed so much. Parents should start an intentional conversation about all of our freedoms, for which many American service members made the ultimate sacrifice. Memorial Day is not just about those who died. It’s about those left behind, our Gold Star Families, and the sacrifices they have made as well.

Before the summer festivities begin, find the time to talk to your children about the meaning and purpose of Memorial Day. Attend a ceremony. There are several in the Tampa Bay area.

If you are not near a service, gather the family around and talk about the meaning of Memorial Day. If you fly a US flag, be sure to fly it at half-mast until noon. Set an alarm for 3 PM local time and observe the National Moment of Remembrance. For younger children, print out coloring sheets of the American flag. Then, remind your children what the red, white, and blue decorations represent: red for valor and hardiness, white for purity and innocence, and blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice. Set a place for the Fallen Soldier and explain the symbolism of the white tablecloth, single red rose, salt, and inverted glass. If you are fortunate enough to have never lost any loved ones to war or conflict, research and find a local service member killed in action and honor that individual during your pre-meal blessings. Then, let your summer of freedom begin.

Written By Dr. Kristy Verdi, Founder and Executive Director, Learn and Serve Tampa, Inc.


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