By Julie Samrick
For many people Memorial Day conjures images of 3-day weekends, discounts at the mall, and when we can officially wear white shoes without looking tacky. But it’s important we pause to reflect and teach our kids why we have a Memorial Day but once a year, a day of serious reflection and remembrance for those service men and women who have given their lives serving our country so that the rest of us may be free.
And what does it mean to be free? That’s a pretty big abstract noun for kids to grasp, but we can break down its meaning to concrete examples they understand. We are a Democracy (demos in Greek means The People) and so we the people get to vote for our President and other offices through free and Democratic elections. Just point to what we’ve seen unfold in the Middle East in recent years. There are people fighting and dying to break from dictatorships, wanting nothing more than the freedom to have their voices heard through the act of voting.
We also have the freedom to dress however we choose. Though many women around the world choose to wear burquas for religious and cultural reasons, there are many who don’t want to wear them but must for fear of reprimand or even injury.
One of the reasons this country was founded was for religious freedom. As Americans we can choose to attend any religious house of worship we choose, or choose not to. There are millions of people around the world who are still dying for this right.
All children have the right to go to school in America and as adults we can further our education as much as we choose. In many countries caste systems or economic conditions still dictate when or if a child is to be educated at all.
We can do different things on Memorial Day to show our pride for fallen soldiers in action to our children. We can hang our American flags for all to see. We might attend a Memorial Day ceremony in our communities. We might do something as simple as offering a prayer. Do something that will make an impression on the kids. Perhaps they will take those traditions with them when they build families of their own.
After years of informal memorials to fallen soldiers dating back to the end of the Civil War, President Nixon finally declared the last Monday in May to forever be Memorial Day. One day a year is not enough to thank the thousands, if not millions, of those in our military who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us.
This post originally ran in 2013.
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