Help Your Kids Understand The Meaning of Memorial Day

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How can we help our kids understand the sacrifices made by those who have fallen while defending our country? I’ve wrestled with this question personally even though we had been a military family up until last year when my husband retired from the Air Force. I know I’ve been guilty of making the day more about the fun stuff and less about its real significance.

It can be even more difficult to help your kids grasp what the day truly means when you don’t have any personal experience with military service. Growing up, I didn’t know anything about what it meant to be in the military, but I fell in love with my best friend’s brother who had left our hometown of Nashville, TN to go to college at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. After four years of dating long-distance, we got married, and I spent the next seventeen years of my life as an Air Force wife. During that season of our lives, we moved every three to four years, made incredible life-long friends, had our three sons (all in different states), and made it through overseas deployments.

Whether or not you have any personal experience with military culture, we all get to experience the benefits of security and freedom that are made possible because of those who volunteer to serve. Helping children understand those freedoms and cultivating hearts of gratitude in them will ultimately make them better citizens and help them to live lives that honor God and bless our nation and our world.

The tradition of Memorial Day began in this country as a day to remember those who died in military service while protecting all the freedoms we enjoy. We express our gratitude for their sacrifice by honoring their memories and by decorating their graves.

Memorial Day took on a very personal meaning for me in 2011. One day that April my husband came home and told me that his friend, Frank Bryant, had been shot and killed in Afghanistan. My husband and Frank had been roommates during their four years at the Air Force Academy. My husband had flown out to be in his wedding two years earlier. Frank and his wife had a one-year-old son at the time. Our hearts were broken.

We flew to Washington, D. C. for Frank’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery. As we sat in the chapel waiting for the service to begin, I was hit with a wave of emotion when his wife walked in holding their son’s hand as he toddled happily beside her. I felt a sense of panic as I looked for the nearest exit out of fear that I was going to completely lose control of my emotions and make a scene. This beautiful wife and mother was living out my very worst nightmare. I managed to hold it together while I sat fervently praying that God would hold her together and get her through this. Four years later, I still try to remember to pray that prayer.

My husband’s favorite verse is John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This heart of sacrifice is what compels men and women in the armed services to take an oath to defend our nation and to be willing to lay down their lives for one another and for their country. Memorial Day honors those, like Lt. Col. Frank Bryant, who believed in something bigger than their own lives. They knew that their individual story was a part of a bigger, more important story, and they were willing to play their part, even though it meant giving up their life.

I believe a life of sacrifice for something greater than ourselves is a common thread among all followers of Jesus whether we’re military or civilian. We have been called to lay down our lives for the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” (Matthew 16:25 ESV). Laying down one’s life is about showing the love of Jesus to others–love that is real and tangible–love that gives hope to hurting people. We can help our children learn to love in ways that stretch around the globe as well as loving big and giving of ourselves right where we are.

Memorial Day is a great time to ask our kids:

  • How can we pray for military families who have lost their loved ones?
  • Who has made sacrifices for us and how can we show them gratitude?
  • What sacrifices could you make for your brothers and sisters or your mom and dad to show them that you love them?

Sacrificial love, in all its forms, points us back to Jesus. As we let Him pour this love deep into our hearts, we are in turn able to pour this love out to others. And I believe that acknowledging these sacrifices, in all their forms, helps our children to see the bigger picture–a vast and beautiful drama in which God is calling them to play their unique and invaluable part as they lay down what God created only them to give.

flags-memorial-300Frank’s family placed a memorial at the cemetery on the grounds of the Air Force Academy near where we live, and last Memorial Day, we went and placed small American flags on that granite bench, and we remembered his sacrifice. It’s a tradition we will continue, and one I hope we can share with others this year.


 

jenni-mccadamsJenni McCadams is a wife, mother, photographer, and graphic artist who currently lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her husband, three boys (ages 13, 10, and 8), and their giant goldendoodle Max. She loves  interior design, hiking, growing things, and is officially the world’s worst meal planner. You can follow her on Twitter @JenniMcCadams or Instagram at @JenniLane15.

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82 comments
JaniceHarrimanBryant
JaniceHarrimanBryant

Thank you Jenni. A beautiful article.  And thank you for remembering Frank. God bless.

Jo Ann Damico
Jo Ann Damico

You tell your children that the soldiers keep us safe and some die trying.

Kristine Ortega
Kristine Ortega

If your stop reading this you will die. My name is Teresa Fidalgo. If you don't repost this on 20 picture I will sleep with you forever. A girl ignored this and her mom died 20 days later. I'm real you can Google me ------> Sorry Guys

Pauline Stacy
Pauline Stacy

Amen God bless all vets .God bless the fallen. THANK U ALL

Doris Elaine Borger
Doris Elaine Borger

They should be honored every day. Teach your children about great grandpop etc who fought for most of what they enjoy daily

Darlene Kinslow
Darlene Kinslow

My son was Navy he made it back home thank you Jesus

Gina Likens
Gina Likens

Kids need to be taught the reason behind each holiday

Jeannette Theresa LeVesque
Jeannette Theresa LeVesque

Veterans Day is for all whether they died or not Mem orial day is for all the dead like in mexico for Dia del muerte ... May 31 st is suppose to be but the government changed it to have a 3 day weekend instead of the day off in the middle of a week ...

Debra Porter
Debra Porter

YES Thank YOU JESUS For All Who Have And Thank YOU JESUS For YOUR SUPREME SACRIFICE in JESUS NAME John 3:16 Psalms139

Rosalie Barlow
Rosalie Barlow

I agree, not only educate our young but educate our grown ups!!

Ollieandlorie Ratliff
Ollieandlorie Ratliff

The parents better do it, Our SCHOOLS SURE ARENT Doing it, These kids today ARENT learning anything they should be learning, How about adding and subtracting, and then theirs Multiplecations , they never heard of,

Carole Janish Wilson
Carole Janish Wilson

Please explain that Veterans Day is when we honor all Veterans. Memorial (Decoration) day is for those that died while serving our country.

Tunde Akindele
Tunde Akindele

Wisdom keep children grow in the word of GOD, we must teach them

Freda Geralys
Freda Geralys

Yes!! One should teach all children about Memorial Day!!

Maria C. Mitchell
Maria C. Mitchell

Which wars have truly been for the "defense" of our country? While a case might be made in favor of WWII, you can't truthfully tell your children that all soldiers in all US wars have died in defense of our country or for "our freedoms." And, in many cases, the fighting has actually caused more loss of freedom - not only for Americans but those abroad - for instance, the Versailles treaty aided the rise of Hitler. The military does not fight for our freedom, and I point to the loss of American freedom just since 9/11. Americans are markedly less free. We are less free than other nations who have a much, much smaller military than the US. And besides that, is "freedom" (whatever that means these days) so much more valuable than the lives of innocent people? Most of the casualties of war are civilians - and that applies to today's wars as well, even with all the rhetoric about "surgical strikes." Only Jesus Christ can give true freedom, and to compare His perfect sacrifice with any country's military is - at best - extremely disrespectful.

CompqueenMG
CompqueenMG

Sadly you don't get it, perhaps you aren't from a military family or maybe just misinformed!

When we, who have decided to enter the military, sign that dotted line, we do it for love of our country and freedoms. No matter what you may think and no matter how you may feel, every single one of us who have, are, or will serve has signed an oath to protect and serve our country and to uphold our Constitution.

If you feel we are less free, it's because of governmental and corporate greed and because off this potus, who lacks the love of and loyalty to God and this great nation, not because of our military! For any American to live in this country and dishonor or try to degrade our military is extremely disrespectful!

We do a job just like anyone else and orders come from the Whitehouse, which we don't always agree with but have to follow. We don't sign up with intentions of killing people but we won't stand by to watch this great nation and the American people be destroyed

I know this is difficult for many to understand but much of it is in the voters hands, vote responsibly and vote in the people who love, respect, and cherish God and America not ones like we have today who live to destroy this country, our constitution, our military, and murder our unborn and Christians.

None of us compare ourselves to our almighty Father, Lord, and Savior, instead we turn to Him for guidance and protection.

I pray for you to not hate on our military heroes, but instead pray for them and their leadership.

CompqueenMG
CompqueenMG

Proud to be a Christian, an American, a gun toting mom of 5, daughter and wife of Vietnam Veterans, daughter of a retired Navy man, mother of a female disabled Gulf War Veteran, and a proud United States Marine! Semper Fi! God bless you!