Reflections on Independence Day

                With Independence Day just passed and our flag still flying on our house, I was rflageflecting on how to convey to our children a sense of gratitude and appreciation of our country’s freedom.

                Growing up, I was exposed to more of the front line of defending freedom than some kids my age.  My father was a West Point graduate and in the military when I was very young.  I was even born in Germany as he served on the East/West German border.  After he left the military, we went back to Germany while he worked as an engineer for the government.  Even though we lived on the German economy rather than on a military base, I saw first-hand our military at work.  We went onto the base for church, grocery shopping, the post office, the doctor, even the movie theater or bowling.  My parents had to show their military I.D.’s and sometimes have our car searched upon entering the base.  I remember when I turned 10 how proud I was to show my own military ID every time we went somewhere.

The 80’s in Germany was a more volatile time than it is now.  In the midst of the Cold War, there was definitely more tension.  Once, we were planning a Memorial Day weekend trip to London, since it was closer than Chicago is to Kansas City.  However Moammar Khadafy bombed the airport from which we were leaving and we cancelled the trip.

Our elementary school was on the base too and we rode the bus through those guarded gates every day.  Once, there was a bomb threat at our school.  We were evacuated and sent home for the day while the school was checked and cleared.  For a couple of months after that, though, we had pairs of soldiers, complete with armed weapons in their hands, patrolling the perimeter of our school and our playground while we played at recess.

I loved seeing the tanks, personnel carriers and army jeeps on the base.  I knew that men and women in military fatigues meant safety for me and my family.

tankAnd years later, when I was in college, there was a career fair in the main lawn of my school.  The military recruiters were there in full gear with their military vehicles.  I was pleasantly surprised by the sense of peace and calm that descended over me upon seeing them.  And I realized how amazing are these men and women who serve our country for the freedom that we often take for granted.

I want to pass that feeling and appreciation on to my own children.  Here are a few ways that I’ve come up to help my children understand this appreciation, not just on the 4th of July but year round.

  1. Put out your flag on national holidays.  Have your children help put it out with reverence and respect.
  2. Write a letter to a soldier serving overseas.  They love letters and pictures from sweet children.  One place we have used is: operationgratitude.com.
  3. Tell them the stories of their American History.  My son and oldest daughter love stories about the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the world wars.  They love to read about the heroes from these times.  A great series you can find at the library is by David Adler.  He writes “A picture book of…”
  4. Visit displays of military vehicles and aircraft.  These are amazing to see for adults and children alike.
  5. Visit a military memorial or cemetary.  Paying tribute to those who died for our freedom humbles us all.
  6. Thank a soldier.  Whenever we see a soldier or a veteran, I always make a point of having the children see us thank them for our service.  We are often met with humble shakes of their heads or a quiet smile.  They are too humble to consider themselves heroes, but that is exactly why we must honor them.soldier

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