Veteran’s Day is November 11th and it is a holiday the kids and grandkids should understand. First of all they should know the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. And it’s not because you start barbecuing on Memorial Day and you shop for Thanksgiving fixings on November 11th.
Veterans Day used to be called Armistice Day. When it was Armistice Day it celebrated the signing of a truce between Germany and the Allied forces on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 which ended the First World War. President Wilson declared the first Armistice Day in 1919 to honor those who had participated in the war.
In 1954, President Eisenhower signed legislation to change the name to Veterans Day to also honor all who had served in America’s subsequent wars. Over the next nearly 50 years, the holiday gradually lost much of its meaning. For too many Americans, it was just another day off or the day the Fall Sales began.
After the September 11th attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed, Veterans’ Day has taken on renewed meaning for many and a better understanding of the sacrifice, the “courage, duty, and honor” of the U.S. military. Today, we see special programs and activities in most schools and communities across the country and rightly so.
Here are some Veteran Day factoids you might want to share with the kids::
There are almost 25 million veterans in the United States. 1.4 million are women.
Over 48 million Americans have served in the military since 1776.
The biggest battle that Americans ever fought was the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. More than 600,000 American troops took part, more American soldiers than had even fought at Gettysburg.
At home, there are many activities kids or grandkids can participate in to mark this special day:
Ask your children to write letters to a veteran the family knows, thanking him or her for their service to our country. They can download a variety of patriotic stationery from various sites on the web.
Interview a relative who served in the armed forces or who is serving today and write-up the veteran’s experiences to share at the family Veterans’ Day dinner table. Ask Grandpa, especially, about his military experiences.
Older kids--from junior high up---can audiotape or videotape veterans and submit their interviews to be included in the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. The Library will send a kit that explains exactly how your kids can help preserve history through this creative project.
Younger children can do a variety of projects associated with this day. Suggest your child to pick one of the core values of one branch of the military and write a story or poem or do a drawing about what that value means to them.
Or make a heroes tree. You’ll need some patriotic stickers and a poster board. Have your kids’ draw a large tree on a poster board. Then ask them to find examples in history of men and women who exemplified the military’s core values. Give them a sticker for each hero they find, and the tree will be blooming with everything from flags to fireworks.
Most important of all:
Do something that supports a soldier on active duty right now. Send a letter or care package. Help a serviceman or woman’s family back home. Make a donation to a soldiers’ fund. There are many ways to help but doing something special for members of the military is the best way to truly honor the meaning of this day.
Also check out the website http://www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces which features a video of First Lady Michelle Obama and gives many ideas of how to be supportive of our troops and their families.
A solider in Iraq wrote, “I would like to say God bless to those who care about me and all the troops that are deployed. I tell you that this is the fourth deployment for the 101st in Iraq and it is a good feeling to know someone out there cares about us. It makes all the difference.” Your children could help make that difference and, in turn, it can make a big difference in their lives, too.
Myrna Blyth and Chriss Winston are the authors of “How to Raise An American”