Of Memorial Days, and Sons and Daughters
With the holiday upon us, a friend recently asked me how I planned to teach my children about the importance of Memorial Day. As a former Marine and veteran of two tours to Iraq, the question surprisingly caught me off guard. I have written extensively about war and its cruel influence on those who waged it, but the concept of passing the difficult lessons I learned in Iraq on to my children has only rarely crossed my mind. It’s not that I want to keep things from my family.
My oldest child is a preschooler, and so until recently my kids have been too young to grasp the concept of patriotism. My son is only 18 months old and surely too young to understand, but my three-and-a-half year old daughter, a precocious beauty wise beyond her years, has already developed a strong capacity for empathy. She may not yet truly understand the meaning of the flag, or why we place our hand on our heart when we listen to the National Anthem at a ballgame, but somehow she knows that if Daddy cries during “The Star-Spangled Banner” it’s because he misses his friends.
Without fail, when the anthem invokes an emotional response from me, she asks me to pick her up at the end of the song, and she kisses the tears from my cheek. Embarrassed, I tell her that the tears are Heaven’s raindrops helping wash away Daddy’s sadness. Although she’s never at a loss for questions, thankfully my explanation always seems to suffice.
So now that Memorial Day is here, how do I teach my daughter that the holiday is about much more than just barbecues and American music? About more than fireworks and festivals?