Veterans Day :: More Than Just Another Day Off

veteran's day - Boston Moms Blog
Photo Credit: Josie Kapral Photography 

School is closed, the post office is closed — but do your children know WHY? As the wife of a veteran, I encourage you to explain Veterans Day to your children.

It’s our job as mothers to teach our children right from wrong. We teach them to be noble, to be moral, and to be kind. We teach our preschoolers about police officers and firefighters, we offer them dress-up clothes and Halloween costumes in their likeness, we tour them around stations and firehouses, we wave as the trucks pass us in parades. We show our children the helpers in our community, idolize our first responders, and (rightfully) describe their bravery to our kids… but how often do we miss our military?

Describing what our military does is a delicate subject to many. The idea of priming our preschoolers and young children with the fact that we even NEED our military can be scary. War, weapons, and hatred from people in and outside of our borders is, of course, terrifying. We want to protect our children from the evils of this world, and to keep their innocence for as long as possible. War is ugly — I get it. But isn’t it important to shine light on the brave men and women who protect us so fiercely when the ugly side shows? I think so. I am proud of many things that my husband has accomplished, but so bravely choosing to serve his country is number one on my list.

It’s been just over a year since my husband left the Navy, and sometimes military life already feels like a distant memory. Oh, how quickly things change — and how sweet (so sweet) life is on this side of it all.

I remember vividly the nights, weeks, and months I spent alone. I remember distinctly the day my son ran into his father’s arms for the first time after a deployment. And I can smell the hospital triage room I was in when my best friend — who had recently had a baby while her husband was deployed — consoled me as I realized I would give birth without my husband (he arrived two days later, and I was still in labor, thank goodness).

But today my day-to-day is filled with the happy screams of my kids when their dad walks through the door at 6 p.m. every night. My weekends are filled with family time, a reliable date to all of our family functions and friends’ weddings, and time for just us. My future is filled with the promise that the next time I have a baby, my husband will be home for the important appointments, to fight my giant maternity pillow for space in our bed, and to soothe my fears when I go into labor. It’s easy to forget how HARD everything was when we lived that life. But I don’t want to forget. I have taken it on as my job to make sure my family always remembers the sacrifice we once made and the reason we made it: Because serving our country was important.

Years ago, my oldest son, then less than 2 years old, knew to place his hand over his heart when he heard the national anthem. We lived on base and heard it daily. We stopped to listen daily. And daily, we were reminded why Daddy wasn’t home with us — he was out doing something bigger. Something even more important than being home with us. Today, I’m not sure if my younger son, now 2 himself, has ever even heard the national anthem. He certainly wouldn’t know to put his hand over his heart if he heard it. I need to fix that.

Our everyday happiness now as a civilian family is made possible by the many men and women who are still standing watch. If they weren’t so willing to sacrifice, we all would have to.

I will spend this Veterans Day reminding my children of the important job their daddy had while he was “the policeman of the whole ocean” (their words), and I’ll point out our many friends and family members who have served and who continue to serve our country. 

Here are some ways to explain Veterans Day to your children:

1. Explain that veterans are people who served in the military (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard). Explain that Veterans Day is a special holiday reserved to thank the people who have served in our military.

2. For young children, describe our military as a group of people who keep us safe, just like our police and fire personnel do! The military makes sure everyone follows the rules set by our country and our friends in other countries, just like our local police force does.

3. Ask your children if they know any veterans, and help them list the names of people who have served in the military.

4. For older children, explain that not every military member “fights” on the front lines of war. Our military trains and employs many engineers, technology professionals, doctors, nurses, shipbuilders, lawyers, and dentists! All these jobs are noble and necessary to the success of our military.

5. Incorporate patriotic books and songs into your day. A favorite of mine is “Underneath It All: A Submarine Bedtime Story” by Brianne Humara, the wife of a Navy sumbariner. 

6) Attend a local Veterans Day event. Point out the uniforms you see and attribute them to the branch of service the veteran served in. Donate to a veterans organization and explain to your children that it’s one way to say “thank you.”

It’s the least we can do. Home of the free, because of the brave. Thank you to all our veterans!