There’s nothing like greeting a soldier in dress uniform. For young children, they are in awe. That presence naturally commands respect. I hosted our school’s Memorial Day Remembrance on Friday, with Army Sergeant First Class John as our guest speaker. As John looked at a sea of wide-eyed children, ready to talk about Memorial Day and the American flag, he decided to kneel. Smart man. He knew that delivering his message on his knees would be better understood by children. And, he was right!
These are the words the children wrote to him on their own. “Thank you for saving our country” and “We want to keep you forever”. They are sincere words. While they capture the moment of Memorial Day and thanking a soldier, I believe there is more behind their words, perhaps a bit of patriotism learned throughout the year.
I think the best thing I do to help children understand and feel the importance of Memorial Day is to sing patriotic songs. As adults, we feel the lump in our throat whenever we sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” or “God Bless America.” Children may not feel that lump, but they most definitely feel a swell in their heart. They stand proud. I show them how to place their hands over their hearts. They love singing patriotic songs.
We belt out “God Bless America”. Our new favorite is “Red, White, and Blue” by Debbie Clement. We love singing! Music and children go hand-in-hand. When the song is also a book, that’s the icing on the cake. Children are surprised to learn that “The Star-Spangled Banner” has multiple verses. The stunning illustrations by Peter Spier give life and learning to our National Anthem. Oh, how we sing!
The Memorial Day Remembrance had to be held indoors as the day was chilly and pouring rain. Each class ‘planted’ a flag to honor and remember those who serve. Instead of putting the flags in our Memory Garden, we put them into decorated buckets. When our pen-pal Sergeant Curran visits the children next week (he is home from Afghanistan), he will help children place the flags in the Memory Garden. That gesture will bring even more meaning to saying Thank You.