How To Teach The Grandkids That Memorial Day Isn’t Just For Unforgettable Picnics

How To Teach The Grandkids That Memorial Day Isn’t Just For Unforgettable Picnics


For most Americans, Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial kickoff of summer – an early chance to get out for an old-fashioned family barbecue in the park, along with some Frisbee flinging, some corn hole tossing, and maybe a pick-up game of softball. Lo and behold several Sunshine Retirement communities happen to be hosting their own Memorial Day barbecues, including The Continental in Austin, Texas; Dunwoody Pines in Dunwoody, Georgia; Garden Way in Eugene, Oregon; Fountain Crest in Lehigh Acres, Florida; Quail Lodge in Antioch, California; Waterford Terrace in La Mesa, California; and The Gardens at Brook Ridge, in Pharr, Texas.

The true meaning of the holiday, of course, is to honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in our nation’s armed forces. And for those who served in the military or have lost family and loved ones in overseas combat, Memorial Day obviously takes on a much greater significance, one that has the potential to trigger painful memories or create misunderstandings among the closest of relatives.

One Sunshine resident, Jim Brothers of Heritage Point in Mishawaka, Indiana, would rather not think about his years serving on a Destroyer that searched for enemy submarines throughout the Pacific. On several occasions, they experienced hurricane-like weather that forced them to chip ice off parts of the ship in 15-minute shifts. After the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, effectively ending WWII, his ship was the first to arrive and experience the devastation.

When asked what he would like children to understand about his service, he responded, “You are shooting at people you do not know. They probably have a family just like you do.”

Because of experiences like Jim’s and because men and women end up in the military for different reasons, residents like Herb Carrell, Richard Smith and Willie Sanford of Creekside Pines in Dallas, Georgia concur that it’s good to ask a veteran for permission to talk about their service. Some are more willing to share than others, but the majority would agree with these gentlemen that serving their country taught them many valuable lessons about life, respect and leadership.

To make sure those principles don’t get lost on future generations, it’s important for today’s children to learn to love their country, value their freedom, and appreciate the brave men and women who have given their lives to keep us free. They can be guided in that direction by special Memorial Day events scheduled at Quail Lodge, Waterford Terrace, Creekside Pines, Garden Way and Fountain Crest, among others. Or you can try some of these simple ways to celebrate Memorial Day with grandkids:

  • Create an American flag using construction paper or simply draw the flag on a piece of paper. Staple the completed flag onto a straw so it can fly and be saluted. If you own an American flag, you can teach older kids how to fly it and fold it. This is a great way to teach your kids about the meaning behind the American flag.
  • Visit and pay tribute to fallen heroes at a local Veteran’s cemetery or war memorial. To show honor and respect, bring flowers to lie on a grave or at the memorial in remembrance of them.
  • Reach out to a Veteran by having your kids create a card, picture or care package and sending it overseas to a soldier on active duty. Visit to discover how and where to send your items. See these great military care package ideas to help you know what to put in a care package. You can also support Veterans in your local area by taking cards, drawings or homemade treats to a nearby VA hospital or Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post to show your appreciation for their service.
  • Celebrate with a parade in your local area. To find one near you visit If one isn’t available to you, watch the National Memorial Day Parade on television. Teach kids to stand and clap for Veterans marching past.
  • Sing a few patriotic songs like America the Beautiful, the National Anthem or say the Pledge of Allegiance, and talk about the meaning behind each one and why we place our hands over our hearts.

Of course, we’re not suggesting that everyone should completely forego the fun of a Memorial Day Weekend family picnic, barbecue or camping trip in favor of solemn patriotic displays. But, as veteran Bill Kincaid, our bus driver at Creekside Village in Hot Springs, Arkansas, suggests below, you might tell the grandkids that a little observance of Memorial Day in whatever capacity is the price of admission that makes the fun and freedom of an early summer three-day weekend even possible in the first place.

“I would want children to understand that the time when I served, it was when our nation was in danger and that people made a choice to protect our country. When someone approaches me and says, ‘Thank you for your service,’ I think it indicates that they realize the sacrifices that the military makes.”

– Bill Kincaid

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, May, 2018.

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