Each May on the final Monday of the month, we experience a day for remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. This federal holiday, Memorial Day was formerly known as Decoration Day. It originated after the Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the War Between the States. It was not until the 20th Century that the day expanded to include all who had lost their lives to preserve the freedom that we all hold dear.
Remembrances can take several forms. Some volunteers place American flags on the grave markers of soldiers in National Cemeteries. Others participate in local community parades, and of course by getting together with family to share a meal and honor what it means to be an American. Many enjoy the concert which is broadcast from the United States Capitol. This celebration not only shares music but pays respect to the. American heroes who have died in past and current conflicts.
Another national event is the Indianapolis 500, an auto race held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911. The Coca Cola 600 stock car race is held later the same day, and of course there is a Memorial Golf Tournament that’s been held since 1976.
In your afterschool program you might want to research local heroes who lost their lives in battle. Unlike Veteran’s Day which honors Veterans both alive and dead, Memorial Day is usually reserved for fallen heroes. You can do some local research and discover the names of local service men and women who died during their service, and then research the conflict they were in and share out a timeline with the community.
If you have the chance to be in Washington DC, you will want to visit the memorials honoring World War II combatants, causalities of the Vietnam War, and those who lost their lives in Korea. And of course you will want to visit Arlington National Cemetery and watch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown. If you can’t visit Washington in person, take a virtual tour and share the memorials with your students that way.
Sharing the past with your students will help them to build an appreciation for the sacrifices made for their freedom.