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Grave Flags on Memorial Day

How to Properly Observe Memorial Day with Kids

How to Properly Celebrate Memorial Day with Kids

Many in the RV community hail Memorial Day as the official kickoff of the camping season for Weekend Warriors. But what is it really?  It is a day for remembrance of those that have fallen in defense of this great Nation.

My grandfather fought in WWII on an aircraft carrier and sadly, I never had the privilege of hearing any of his stories about his time in service. All I can do is try to learn as much as I can about the ship he was on and visit his gravestone to plant a flag, letting him know how much I miss him. I’m deeply saddened that my children never got to meet him, so Memorial Day has an even deeper level of meaning to us as a family.

Now that we’re on the road full-time, we have learned to find other ways to observe Memorial Day and remember my grandfather. I make a point to share with them what I know of his military service and we focus on the holiday as a whole: the true meaning and history of Memorial Day, and not the sales, parties, and summer kick-off it’s become to many people. For us this is not a day to party, play on the lake, or even to thank a veteran. It is a day to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

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Ways to Observe Memorial Day with Kids Based on Where You Are

I think that one of the more amazing things about this lifestyle and road schooling is that we have the ability to plan and be near events and places that allow us to get hands on with what we’re learning about. Across the country, there are so many places where we can steep ourselves in our history. If you’re still planning where you’ll be for Memorial Day, maybe take these ideas into account.

1. Visit a National or State Cemetery

If there’s one nearby, consider visiting a nearby National or State Cemetery with your family. To find one near you, click here.

2. Attend a Ceremony or Parade

Many areas are reviving the tradition of the Memorial Day parade, so check your community’s calendar of events. Or, attend a ceremony at one of your nearby National Cemeteries. They are normally held Fri-Sun rather than on Memorial Day itself, and you can find the listing here.

3. Attend a Reenactment

Decoration Day was established after the Civil War, and those reenactments can be a great way for kids to discover in a more tangible way the sacrifice we are taking special time to honor. If you’re looking for a reenactment, you can find a listing here. If not, a quick web search (or a visit to your local history museum) can help you find a list of events near you.

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4. Visit a Museum or War Memorial

One of our favorite things to do throughout the year, but if we’re visiting one over the holiday, we’re sure to pick one war-related.

Favorites in the past have been the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL, (it has an amazing section dedicated to the Vietnam War, and we greatly enjoyed learning more about the ship my grandfather served on in WWII) and the Perry’s Victory & International Peace Monument and Museum in Put in Bay, OH, (officers from both sides were buried here after the War of 1812).

Often overlooked, but one you don’t want to skip is the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City. If you happen to be in Alabama a good museum to go to is the U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum. It has artifacts and memorabilia from the Revolutionary War to present Day. They even have the oldest surviving jeep: the Ford Pygmy.

Ways to Observe Memorial Day with Kids Anywhere

Of course, we can’t always be near one of the places listed above, or we’re just can’t get out for whatever reason.  So here are a few ways to observe Memorial Day no matter where you are.

1. Observe the Traditional Decoration Day Traditions

If you fly the Flag at your rig, fly the Flag at half-staff from sunrise until noon and then raise to full for the remainder of the day. You can use this as an opportunity to teach your kids about properly flying and caring for the Flag.

Additionally, the day was intended for the decoration of the graves of the Fallen with flowers, particularly red poppies. In past years, we’ve visited the small cemetery where my grandfather is buried and decorated his grave and planted flags at other veteran’s grave sites that no longer had family around to do so. For more on the history of Memorial Day/Decoration day, click here. And for more about the VFW’s Buddy Poppy, click here.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
-Moina Michael

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2. Observe the National Moment of Remembrance

This was a resolution passed in 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to “Taps.”  It’s a small but powerful way to observe the importance and intent of the day.

3. Watch a Movie

If your kids are older, consider watching Glory, Saving Private Ryan, The Patriot, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Forest Gump, To Hell and Back, Flags of our Fathers, or Band of Brothers.

4. Read a Book

For younger kids, try reading The Wall, America the Beautiful, A is for America, We the Kids, The Flag Maker, How to Bake an American Pie, F is for Flag and L is for Liberty. For older kids: Johnny Tremain and The Red Badge of Courage are excellent reads.

5. Volunteer

Don’t forget that you can do this one all year round. There are some great opportunities to volunteer at the National and State Cemeteries (find more info on how here), check with local veteran’s memorials, or look for foundations helping the families left behind by Fallen Heroes of our generation.

Grave Flags on Memorial Day

A Note About Thanking Veterans on Memorial Day

Please remember to teach your kids the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day (Nov 11th). Memorial Day is for remembering and honoring the Fallen. Veteran’s Day is for thanking and honoring the living who are currently or have previously served. As a veteran, it’s appreciated that they are observed appropriately. So save the Thank a Veteran activities for November!

While our kids are excited to see the campgrounds filling up and making new friends as the camping season commences, it’s important to remember what this holiday is really about. It’s up to us to make sure the next generation doesn’t forget the lessons learned and the sacrifices made.

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Josh Schnakenberg

Josh Schnakenberg is a full-time RVer and father of five. He and his wife, Dani, help other families who want to ditch the “American Dream” in favor of more freedom through their blog Big Family Minimalist.

When he’s not busy doing all the things that dads do, you can find Josh hiking with his kids and Goldendoodle, taking in a baseball game, or geeking out over all sorts of video games.

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