The holiday immediately following Halloween is, in fact, not Thanksgiving. Though it is appropriate that the two share a month, Veterans Day is the next holiday. For us, it is more than a much-appreciated day off. It’s a day of remembering, honoring, and gratitude.
In high school, the school band gathered in the park and played patriotic songs and hymns while weathered men gave speeches. I knew then that we were marking the sacrifice of all who served and that we were celebrating, in particular in our town, the few who returned from Viet Nam.
It would be impossible for me to fully grasp what it means to pledge my whole life in service to a government for the sake of its people. Many in my family have done just that and I have felt their sacrifice and my own loss. My brother served multiple tours in the Pacific, Greece, and Kuwait, among others. He was in charge of the fire safety squad on his ship at 19 years old. It’s incredible to think that my pesky kid brother was capable of so much responsibility! There are stories that he’s told me about his experience that terrify me -- even while knowing that he is here and safe now. No doubt there are many more stories that I sort of hope he never tells me.
Men like my brother and cousins who have served and are still serving in the armed forces remind me that veterans are not just the elderly. They’re also young men and women continually battling against oppression and for freedom.
To make the connections real and tangible for your students, invite a veteran to your classroom or contact the USO, and organization who is often the last to see the troops off and the first to welcome them home. Encourage your students to write letters to soldiers or collect goods to send in care packages through the USO.
You can hear first hand accounts of World War II from Georgia veterans through GPB’s oral history project. You can also learn more about Civil War veterans through GPB Education’s monthly resource page.