Heather French Henry, former commissioner of Veterans Affairs, a former Miss America, and current ambassador for Global Game Changers Children’s Education Initiative, Inc., shares these nine tips to teach kids how to honor Veterans Day on November 11.
Help kids understand what a veteran is, and the history of Veterans Day.
Young children sometimes make the reasonable assumption when talking about vets or veterans around November 11 that we’re talking about animal doctors. Help them understand that a veteran is an individual – man or woman – who has served in our Armed Forces. You can also ask them to consider why we should honor these people. Once you’ve learned about veterans, explore Veterans Day.
Learn more about the military.
The United States Armed Forces is made up of six branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Space Force. You can explore each branch and even listen to the hymns from each service corps on YouTube, Spotify, Pandora or wherever you access music. You can also remember the Reserves and National Guard members who support the military on many missions.
Reach out to your local Veterans Affairs medical center or a Veterans Service Organization.
The federal or state departments of Veterans Affairs provide opportunities for learning about, and access to, veterans. Many communities also feature a Veterans Affairs hospital and/or a Veterans Service Organization, like Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans. Reach out to your nearest organization and ask how your family can support the veterans who use their services. Perhaps there are individuals who would enjoy a visit, items you can donate, or other work you can do to support these organizations.
Visit a memorial or military cemetery.
“All gave some. Some gave all.” Technically we celebrate those who gave their all on Memorial Day in May, but Veterans Day is also a fine time to remember those who lost their lives for our country. Visit a local memorial or military cemetery. Find state cemeteries at your state’s Veterans Affairs page, and national ones at cem.va.gov. Place flags or flowers on the graves.
Make a family connection.
Many Americans have served in the military. Look at your own family tree to see if you can find a veteran, or identify a close friend who served. Show your kids a picture of that person, especially if you have a picture of them in uniform. Investigate the conflict in which they served. You can find all kinds of information about enrollment if you have an ancestry.com account.
Watch or create an oral history.
Oral histories are an important way to preserve the memories of veterans who have served our country, and to learn from the lessons they have to teach us. The Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project allows you to search oral histories by conflict, branch, type of material and more. If you know a veteran, you can also work to come up with questions, and add the story of the veteran you know to the collection!
Explore military symbols.
Every nation uses symbols to honor its veterans, such as the yellow ribbon in America and the poppy in Great Britain and Canada. During World War II, mothers kept stars in their windows. You can explore the history with your children and enjoy the art, including the poem “In Flanders Fields” and the song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.”
Honor active-duty military members.
Reach out to those currently serving overseas and away from their families with a care package or homemade card. Putting a smile on the faces of future veterans is one way to ensure that we honor them. The Red Cross Holidays for Heroes program sends care packages overseas.
Keep honoring veterans all year round.
Even though veterans are top of mind in November, you can work to honor them all year round. A simple thank you to someone who served or is currently serving can go a long way. Global Game Changers has a great lesson on its free-to-join portal called “Superhero Honor” that focuses on the history of Veterans Day and how kids can honor veterans.
About Global Game Changers
Global Game Changers Children’s Education Initiative, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing evidence-based leadership development and social-emotional learning programs that empower students to overcome apathy, feel empathy, and foster a sustainable connection to service. To support this mission, the organization offers a free superhero-themed curriculum (MY TALENT + MY HEART = MY SUPERPOWER) to schools, parents, after-school programs and summer programs, currently reaching more than 1,000 schools and 250,000 students in 49 states and 13 countries around the world. The prekindergarten through fifth-grade curriculum is made possible by the David Novak Leadership foundation, whose mission is to make the world a better place by developing better leaders at every stage of life. For more information or to get involved, visit globalgamechangers.org.