Often confused with Memorial Day, Veterans Day is a day set aside specifically to honor American veterans who have selflessly devoted themselves in sacrifice and service to our country. November 11th was first declared a federal holiday in 1938 as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I. In 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, President Eisenhower signed legislation to officially change “Armistice Day” to “Veterans Day.”
We should be grateful to our veterans every day of the year, but Veterans Day serves as an excellent learning opportunity for our kids. Through lessons about historical and influential wars in which the United States has been involved, they can learn the contribution of our armed forces to the establishment and preservation of our nation.
In addition to teaching these valuable lessons, there are numerous practical ways kids can honor our service members, past and present, in commemoration of Veterans Day. Here are five simple ones that you can begin with your child this year.
Participate in Greenlight A Vet
An easy way to show support for veterans is through the Greenlight A Vet project. By replacing a light in your home with a green light bulb, perhaps in your child’s room or on your front porch, you are demonstrating your acknowledgment and appreciation of the service of our veterans. As you accompany your children to purchase the green light and then install it in your home, take the opportunity to talk to them about ways to make a difference and to express thankfulness for those who serve our nation and our communities.
Share a picture of your green light using #GreenlightAVet to let everyone know how your family is thanking veterans this year.
Visit War Memorials
Across the country, there are monuments, memorials, cemeteries, battlefields, and other historical landmarks which can be educational for kids. These destinations provide insight into the sacrifices veterans have made throughout history. Your children can learn about being a soldier and the many contributions that veterans make to the country.
Encourage School/Community Involvement
Many schools have initiatives to thank veterans in their communities. They may host assemblies with veterans as guest speakers, offer some sort of in-house thank you, or provide an opportunity for students to recognize their family members who have served.
Local churches, clubs, or sports teams may also consider doing some type of recognition and acknowledgment of veterans and their families in the community. If your school or organization is not currently running any type of recognition of veterans for Veterans Day, perhaps you can consider volunteering your time along with your child to get an initiative started.
Support Veteran Businesses
There are many veteran-owned businesses, or those dedicated to hiring veterans, that are helping to employ veterans as they transition into civilian life. If you are presented with the opportunity, consider purchasing gifts for your children from these businesses, letting your child know where the gift came from and why that’s important.
For example, Handmade by Heroes employs veterans, some disabled or suffering from PTSD, who make paracord sports and medical ID bracelets, as well as other similar products. If your child has a favorite sports team or has the need for any type of medical identification, then this is a great way for your child to wear with pride a product made by one of our country’s heroes.
Simply Say Thank You
Teaching your child to say thank you to someone they see in uniform or identified as a veteran will not only help your child to value their service, but it will likely serve to brighten everyone’s day. Your children will learn the joys of a kind act, and the veterans will know that their sacrifices are appreciated. A simple thank you goes a long way.
If your child wants a more formal way to say thank you to a veteran, organizations such as Operation Gratitude facilitate sending care packages and letters to veterans, wounded heroes, and service members. Especially around the holidays, this is a practical way for a child to give the gift of gratitude.
Is someone in your family a veteran? Please comment below so we can express our appreciation this Veterans Day!
This article was originally published in 2016 and has been revised and republished in 2021.