To some it’s just another holiday on the calendar like Presidents Day or Memorial Day: we put out the flag and maybe have a barbecue celebrating our freedom from the office or school for the day. But to some families like ours, Veterans Day is a big deal.
By Sarah Antrim
My husband is an Iraq war veteran that served two tours overseas with the US Marine Corps. We are thankful every day that he arrived home safely and proud of the service he paid for our freedom. Making kids aware of the sacrifice that our veterans have given for our freedom and safety is extremely important, and the pride-filled look in a child’s eyes as he looks up to a hero is priceless. Here are some ways to teach kids how to show their gratitude on Veterans Day:
1. Send a message or donation through your local USO center.
The USO provides veterans and their families with great programs such as “United Through Reading,” which allows deployed parents to record a bedtime story onto a DVD for their children. The USO is always accepting donations of your time or monetary value. Services and opportunities vary by center and some USO centers have a minimum age requirement of 18 years of age to volunteer, so be sure to contact your local center beforehand. If you are unable to make it to a center, kids can also volunteer virtually by sending a personal instant message to the family of a veteran at USO.org.
Editor’s note: You can also mail a letter or child’s drawing to A Million Thanks. Over 9 million letters have been sent to active, reserve and retired military members through this organization.
2. Visit your local American Legion or VFW post.
A regular hangout for many veterans, the VFW and American Legion posts are open to the public. Many local posts have special events for Veterans Day such as picnics or pancake breakfasts. Contact your local VFW or American Legion to see what sorts of events they have planned for the holiday weekend, and encourage your kids to interact with veterans in their area.
3. Decorate the memorial of a fallen service member.
Most states have established cemeteries reserved for veterans. Many are regularly open to the public for visitation. Have your child pick some flowers and decorate a thank you card for a veteran. Explain to your child the importance of sacrifice and courage that military members exhibit on a daily basis. Visit the National Cemetery Administration at cem.va.gov for a complete listing of veterans cemeteries and contact information.
4. Make a care package for “Adopt a Platoon.”
Founded in 1998, the AdoptaPlatoon program strives to improve the quality of life for deployed service members by ensuring they are not forgotten by their country. Kids can express their gratitude for our servicemen away from home by putting together a care package or sending cards and letters. Some of the most highly anticipated treats are hard candy that can withstand extreme heat, powdered drink mixes, air fresheners, small pillows with pillow cases, playing cards, small hand-held fans and disposable cameras. Your child can put together a thoughtful package and include a personal drawing or letter thanking the platoon for their dedicated service. Check out AdoptaPlatoon for more details and guidelines on how to get involved.
5. Pay homage at a local veterans hospital or retired veterans home.
No matter what age, a veteran always appreciates a word of thanks for their service. Some wounded soldiers may not have the opportunity to interact with the public often because of injuries or disabilities. Take your children to a veterans home or hospital and encourage them to shake hands and thank the residents. If they feel comfortable enough, they can even ask questions and learn a thing or two about the retired servicemen and their duties. If you are unsure of the nearest veterans hospital or are looking for another way to get involved, contact AMVETS to see what sort of assistance you can provide to help veterans in your area.