"On thy grave the rain shall fall from the eyes of a grateful nation!"

By Becky Samford, Publisher Duluth, Norcross, Suwanee, Johns Creek & Peachtree Corners Macaroni Kid May 21, 2023

Their duty was to serve, ours is to remember and be worthy of their sacrifice.

Memorial Day is more than going to a parade and having a BBQ or picnic.  It is a day of remembrance of those who have died serving our country. One of the things that I love about Duluth is that each year our streets are lined with markers and flags, representing those from our community who died protecting our freedom. Three of those markers are for members of my own family. Each time I pass all those flags my eyes fill with tears and my heart with pride.

But sadly, most children today have no idea what they mean. I think that taking the time to properly celebrate serious holidays helps shape a child’s moral worldview. By remembering those who through courage and selflessness sacrificed their lives for our country, we teach our children that these virtues should be honored. They should know that our freedom does not come without a price.

Teach Your Child the History of Memorial Day

The first thing you should do is teach your child about the history of Memorial Day. This is no longer taught in many schools and you may even be rusty on the history that led to this day becoming a national holiday.

The history of Memorial Day goes all the way back to 1866, right after the nation was recovering from the Civil war. Both the North and the South saw soldiers coming home with serious injuries and many towns had lost friends and loved ones to this war. In Waterloo, New York, a drugstore owner named Henry Welles came up with the idea that on one day all the shops would close down to honor those who had been killed during the war and that everyone in the town would visit the local cemetery and put out flowers and crosses on their graves.

Retired Major General Jonathan A. Logan,  planned a similar day for soldiers that had survived the Civil War to decorate the graves of comrades with flags. It was a memorial, not a celebration, and it was called Decoration Day. These two ceremonies were joined together to be one in 1868. On this day songs were sung, veterans would wear their uniforms and medals and go to cemeteries to remember the fallen, and town people would decorate graves with flags, flowers, and photos.

It was not until 1882 that the name Memorial Day was actually used and the day was made to be a remembrance to all soldiers who had died fighting for this country. President Nixon would then declare it a federal holiday in 1971, to be on the very last Monday in the month of May and declared Waterloo, New York to be the birthplace of this holiday.

Since the late 1950′s, small American flags are placed at each of the more than 400,000+ gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery by the 3d U.S. Infantry. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.

Teach Your Children to Remember and Honor

In the year 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance Resolution was passed. At 3 pm on Memorial Day, all Americans are asked to voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance & respect by pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence.

Red poppies are considered the Memorial Day flower. There is a poem called "In Flanders Fields" that refers to the fields of poppies growing among soldiers' graves during the First World War.

Some of the ways that you could teach your children to honor our soldiers on Memorial Day would be to incorporate some of these traditions into your Memorial Day Monday:

  1. Visit a military cemetery or monument and place flowers on some military graves, particularly those in your own family. You might also choose some graves that are older, undecorated, and from different wars.
  2. Ride around Duluth to view all of the Veteran Markers. See is you can spot anyone whose family you know.
  3. You could ring a bell and pause for a moment of silence at 3:00PM in remembrance of those who have done so much for this country.
  4. Organize a neighborhood parade. Get the kids to decorate their bikes and trikes or use red, white and blue decorations to adorn wagons and strollers to parade around your neighborhood with others. End with a refreshing ice cream treat and enjoy the time with your neighbors.
  5. If you know a family who has lost a member to war, you could encourage your child to write a letter telling the family how thankful he is for the deceased soldier’s courage and sacrifice. If your child cannot write yet, you could have him dictate a letter or draw a picture in honor of the soldier.
  6. You could write a letter or draw a picture to “The Unknown Solider”, attach the piece of paper to a helium balloon, and release the balloon in honor of the soldier.
  7. Fly the American flag. On Memorial Day, the flag should first be raised to the top of the staff, then slowly lowered to half-staff, until noon when it should be raised to the top of the staff for the rest of the day.
  8. Check out some picture books that honor soldiers from the library for younger children to read and discuss. The Wall by Eve Bunting tells the story of a young boy and his father who visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to find the boy’s grandfather’s name on the wall. This picture book is on almost every Memorial Day book list and has a 5-star rating on Amazon. Another choice is Memorial Day Surprise by Theresa Martin Golding where a mother promises a special surprise for her son after the Memorial Day parade. The book culminates with the surprise: his grandfather being honored for his military service. For older kids and adults, "Scared Duty" by Sen. Tom Cotton is an excellent choice to learn about the amazing 3d U.S. Infantry, which performs honorary duties such as guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, conducting all funerals at Arlington Cemetery, and escorting our fallen heroes from Angel Flights to their final resting places. 
  9. Talk to a veteran. Take the kids to hear the story of a serviceman or servicewoman and encourage them to ask questions to better understand their sacrifice. Bring cookies or flowers or a hand-made note as a sign of thanks.
  10. Make a patriotic craft or recipe. Check Pinterest for some great craft ideas OR our Macaroni Kid Pinterest Page

Did you know that ...

  • The Grand Army of the Republic began decorating the graves of fallen service members with flowers in May 1868, which was then known as "Decoration Day".
  • In 1971 Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday, to be observed on the last Monday in May, moving it from the static date of May 30, in order to create a 3-day weekend.
  • On the Thursday before Memorial Day, small American flags are placed at each of the 400,000+ gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery and other cemeteries nation-wide.
  • To encourage more people to observe Memorial Day, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act in 2000, which asks people to stop what they are doing at 3:00pm local time and observe a minute of silence to honor those who lost their lives defending the country. 
  • On Memorial Day, the flag should first be raised to the top of the staff, then slowly lowered to half-staff, until noon when it should be raised to the top of the staff for the rest of the day.
  • Red poppies are considered the Memorial Day flower. There is a poem called "In Flanders Fields" that refers to the fields of poppies growing among soldiers' graves during the First World War. In 1915, Moina Michael wrote her own poem inspired by “In Flanders Fields”:

"We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies."

Please don't allow your children to go on thinking that Memorial Day is just another holiday. This is an important day that kids need to know about. Teach your kids the history and importance of Memorial Day and remember our past American heroes together.

All residents of Duluth can just fill out a Veteran Marker Request form HERE to obtain a marker for each veteran in their family. The flags and markers are on display the week before and after Memorial Day, and the week before and after Veterans Day.

We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them. ~Francis A. Walker