I scheduled an appointment for our cat to get her annual physical on Veterans Day one year when my daughter was about nine. I was off from work and my daughter was home from school, so it was a convenient time to take our kitty in for shots.
I was surprised when my girl asked the vet why he was working. She said he should have taken the day off since it was “Veterinarian Day.” That’s when I realized I had done a poor job explaining the significance of the day (and so had her school!). We spent the rest of the day in action.
Here are five ways to make Veterans Day meaningful to a child.
Start with the basics
I started off by simply explaining the meaning of the word “veteran.” I told her it’s someone who has served in the military. We then looked up the different branches of the military on the Internet. We read about the different wars.
Look at a map
We talked about how many soldiers are in the Middle East and have been for a long time. We looked at it on the map. I asked her how she thought the soldiers felt being so far from home. “Sad, scared, and lonely,” she said. We discussed the bravery of soldiers for risking their own lives to protect the rights of others. Then we decided to give back.
Make care packages
We hit the Dollar Tree to put together a care package for a soldier. We brought a priority box with us so we knew what would fit. We bought gum, beef jerky, nuts, instant drink mixes, toiletries, playing cards, a box of greeting cards, and pens. We added a book of stamps. We used anysoldier.com to find an address to send the package to. My daughter made a card and wrote a letter to go with the package.
Think of the children
My daughter was very sad for the children who were without their parents for so long. She made a bunch of cards thanking children for sharing their parents and stating how proud she was of the work their mom or dad was doing. We bundled these cards up and sent them to our closest military base.
Finally, we baked chocolate-chip cookies. We picked up two gallons of milk and brought it, along with the warm cookies, to our local homeless center. My daughter made a colorful sign that said, “Thank you, veterans.” I had recently met the director and he told me they have a large number of homeless veterans living at their facility.
I’m so glad I took the time to teach her that Veterans Day isn’t just a day off from school and work. Does your family have any traditions to honor veterans?