Memorial Day is a special time set aside to honor all who have died in the nation's wars. It's also a fitting time to thank our 26 million living veterans. KidsPost has some suggestions for memorable ways to spend your Memorial Day.
Join the parade: Forty high- stepping bands will march down Independence Avenue, along with patriotic floats, starting at 8 this morning. More than 20,000 people are expected to take part. You can grab a spot along the parade route, which begins on Third Street SW on the west side of the Capitol, heads south to Independence and then west to 12th Street SW. (Note to late risers: The parade ends around 11 a.m.)
Visit the World War II Memorial: Our newest monument is located between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. If you visit, count the stone pillars that surround the Rainbow Pool: There's one for every state during the war, plus U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. Stand before the Freedom Wall. Each of its 4,000 golden stars represents 100 U.S. servicemen and -women who died during World War II.
Make a star: In 1917, when the United States entered World War I, families with someone in the armed forces often hung a blue star (or blue-star flag) in the window as a sign of pride and hope. If the family member died while serving, the blue star was replaced by a gold star. This tradition continues. If you know someone in the military, hang a blue star in your window.
Remember somebody far away: More than 125,000 military men and women are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fourth-graders at Crofton Meadows Elementary are collecting bottled water, toothpaste, combs, sunglasses, cards, batteries and books to help the soldiers "feel like they're at home," said Matthew Shin, 10. The students got the idea "because we're reading about changing America . . . and [the collection] is a big step," said Paul Laurenzano, 10. Items, including boxes and stamps to help with the mailing, can be dropped off at the school, 2020 Tilghman Dr. in Crofton, tomorrow through Friday. If you have questions, call the school at 410-721-9453.
Read, watch, learn: A new book, "Yankee Doodle Gals" by Amy Nathan, celebrates the more than 1,100 women -- some of them teens barely out of high school -- who served as fliers during World War II.
A good movie to rent is "PT 109," the true story of a U.S. patrol torpedo boat sliced in half by a Japanese destroyer in 1943, and how the young skipper saved his crew. His name: John F. Kennedy, our 35th president.
Be chatty: What was it like to fight in the Korean War or be on the homefront during World War II? What items were in short supply, or impossible to find? How long did it take for war news to get back to the States? Did people still take summer vacations?
If you know a talkative older person, grab a pencil and paper (or tape recorder) and ask about his or her wartime experience. This is called "oral history" and it's fascinating! Think of a few questions in advance, then let the conversation go where it will. Ask your teacher if you may share your notes with the class.
Just remember: We realize that Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer and that some of you will want to go to the pool and eat hot dogs off the grill. That's fine. Just take a minute or two to think about all those who have fought, and still are fighting, for our country.
-- Marylou Tousignant
and Tracy Grant