Why Do We Celebrate Veterans on November 11th? A Picture Book and a Chat with Children Can Begin the Discussion.
November 11th is Veterans Day. It’s a time set aside to remember veterans, their service to our country, and the military armed forces that serve both here and abroad.
But, many of us, including myself, never knew the WHY of that date. And it DOES have enormous historical significance, for it was at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the the eleventh month that World War l, (11/11/11) that the “the war to end all wars,” ended.
It marked the signing of the armistice that ended the war between the Allied Nations and Germany in 1918.
Sadly, wars go on, and men and women of the United States have stood and served…including my father, father-in-law and my two brothers, Walt and Val.
My father, Walt Sr., served first, for two years in the Navy as a volunteer, and later, during World War ll, in the Army. Yes! He served in two branches of the military. Adam, my father- in-law, also served during World II, in coding.
Walt, Jr., my older brother, served in the Navy during the time of the Viet Nam conflict, and my younger brother, Val, now deceased, was a Chief Petty Officer and career 20-year veteran, serving among other things, during “Operation Desert Storm,” aboard the U.S.S. Eisenhower.
I am enormously proud of all of them, of the sacrifices they made to make my life safer and more secure. Maybe I have taken that sacrifice, and that of so many, many others, for granted.
We can never say thank you enough.
And, you know what? They have NEVER asked for our thanks They just did it.
We stop on this day, and now for the entire month of November that was recently signed into an official presidential proclamation last year, to honor the men and woman who sacrifice much to protect and serve our country. Whether it’s in time of peace, war or national disaster, they are at the ready to serve the people of this country. And, now, this proclamation for November, also includes their families, whose sacrifices also can never be overlooked.
Have you ever heard the famous quote by John Milton? It says, They also serve who only stand and wait? I believe for families of our service men and women, that quote is a reality.
As we passed to an all volunteer army in the 70’s, the number of families in today’s culture that have any direct current connection to a family member in the military are in ever-increasing smaller numbers.
I wonder sometimes how that affects our view of their sacrifice, as it impacts many fewer families than ever before directly, as it did in those years when the draft was in effect?
Also, forgotten, at times, may be the families of the military. Waiting, as their loved ones “stand and serve,” is also a sacrifice and a significant contribution, as the proclamation states. Their family members are deployed, sometimes for lengthy periods, both here and abroad.
It should also be noted that many men and women, plus grandparents and other family members “serve” during this time as single parents. It cannot be an easy assignment, yet they do it, with sometimes emotional consequences brought on by distance.
Picture books have always provided opportunities to both entertain and enlighten young readers. I have selected a picture book that references, in its story line, the sacrifice of one military family. Children of military families may feel a bit isolated from their peers because of their unique situation brought on by absent parents. On some level, they may realize, depending on their age, that their parent’s job is an important one, but for a child, that does not preclude the emotions they feel at the separation.
Here, in When Dad’s at Sea by Mindy L. Pelton, with illustrations by Robert Gantt Steele, tells the story of Emily, whose father, a Navy pilot, is on a six-month deployment aboard an air craft carrier.
Using a paper chain, she daily tears off a piece of the chain that her father has made for her, marking the days till he returns. Her mom and another friend, whose father is aboard the same ship, aid Emily with understanding and compassion. Phone calls, and e-mails help pass the time of the separation, plus she marks her dad’s journey on a map. The use of watercolor art in the illustrations of this picture book, perhaps, is used here as a softening technique to good effect.
This month might be a perfect opportunity for parents to discuss this reality for some children with their own children, for as the world grows smaller, we are ever more connected to other’s experiences that may be very different than our own.
This picture book will lend to young readers, a feeling of empathy and sensitivity towards children of military families with whom they may come into contact.
So, this November 11th when we honor veterans, for this month of November, let us also pay tribute to the military families who sacrifice much so that we are a free people.
For a fuller explanation of the month and its origins, plus the proclamation by the President of the United States that initiated the observance, please see the link at the bottom.
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