May 19, 2020
Distance Learning and Memorial Day:
What our children should know
In recent weeks I have been practicing self-care by walking through my community. I have seen more and more yard signs honoring graduates. Signs celebrating high school seniors, middle school students promoting to 9th grade, and even elementary age students leaving 5th grade are popping up everywhere. As the parent of a 7th and 8th grader, I contemplate the impact school closures and lost spring sport seasons will have on our children. I wonder how the impact of job loss, financial stress, and general malaise will trickle down from moms and dads to sons and daughters.
As the Outreach Director for the MDVA, I am blessed in many ways. I have the opportunity to serve our veteran community, to ensure they know about their benefits, and to help connect them to resources. I am fortunate to be able to continue working while also being available to help my sons with schoolwork. I am re-learning Algebra, Spanish, and about Post Civil War Western Expansion. All subjects I am sure I learned many years ago, but skill sets I had all but forgotten.
In contemplating my re-education on these subjects, I also contemplate one simple question. What do our children know about Memorial Day? Do they only know Memorial Day as a day to have picnics, to light sparklers, to eat hot dogs, and to go to the beach? There is no suggestion here that we should not have a picnic on Memorial Day, but rather the question is do our children know why we really have Memorial Day?
(Photo Credit: Military.com)
The most notable reason and perhaps the easiest way to explain why we have Memorial Day is that it is a day to honor the men and women who died in their military service to the Nation. We fly our American flag as a way to pay homage to them and to show respect to the families left behind.
Here is a little more history for you and our younger generation. The first Memorial Day observance is not entirely clear; however, it was following the Civil War that communities first began laying flowers and saying prayers at the graves of fallen soldiers. Further, the first observance was not even known as Memorial Day.
Decoration Day, now Memorial Day, was established by then Commander in Chief of the Army of the Republic, General John A. Logan. On the first Decoration Day, on May 30, 1868, General James Garfield spoke to more than 500,000 citizens at Arlington National Cemetery who would lay flowers at the graves of more than 20,000 soldiers buried there.
As the United States found itself engulfed in World War I, Decoration Day morphed into Memorial Day and now honors service men and women who have died in all wars or conflicts. It is now a designated holiday on the last Monday in May.
Just how many men and women have we lost in battle? Between 1775-present, more than 42 million men and women have worn the military uniform. More than 660,000 men and women have died during battle. This does not account for non combat related deaths or the non-fatally wounded.
We owe it to our younger generation to educate them on the service and sacrifice of our military. So I ask each of you reading this blog entry to please take a moment this week to educate a child, a teenager, a young adult, on the sacrifices which have been made by so many so that we can be free.
In 2000, the United States Congress declared a National Moment of Remembrance on Memorial Day at 3:00PM. This is the exact moment the entire nation should take pause and to reflect. Take pause for a moment, but remember always, freedom is not free.
Outreach Program Director