This week, we began our studies of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. We learned a lot about Lincoln’s early life this week; next week, we’ll get more in-depth about the war. This is one of my favorite periods of American History to study/teach, possibly because I’ve read Gone With the Wind so many times!
Since we were learning about the Civil War this week and next, we went on a field trip to see a an exhibit entitled “Civil War in the West,” which is currently housed in the Old Ordnance Room at Jefferson Barracks National Park. It was interesting to see the different displays showcasing different aspects of life during the Civil War, including a woman rolling bandages, a doctor performing an amputation, (the children had a morbid curiosity about that one!), and soldiers sitting by a campfire.
The children were also interested in a display which showed the kinds of entertainment that were popular back then. They were quite surprised to discover that playing cards and dominoes haven’t changed much!
While we were at the park, we also stopped in the Powder Magazine to see the World War II exhibit. We got to see a local display, which included an airman’s uniform, and a “victory blanket” his family had made.
We also talked about rationing, especially as we’re looking forward to Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. We discussed how even the royal family had to use ration books, and how people just couldn’t go out and buy whatever they wanted, when they wanted it. I don’t think the children could quite wrap their minds around that concept!
Outside the Powder Magazine is a Battle of the Bulge Memorial. It was nice to stop and look at this, especially as this weekend is Memorial Day Weekend.
Also to honor Memorial Day, we stopped at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, which is adjacent to the park. The children have been there once before, but they were still amazed at the number of graves that are there…to be honest, so am I! It was a good opportunity to talk about how many people have served in the Armed Forces, and how many of them died defending our country.
Only two more weeks of school to go!
I think the Uniform Monday Holiday Act is a complete travesty, and those who were serving in Congress when it passed should be ashamed of themselves. Turning Memorial Day, which should be observed on May 30th, regardless of the day of the week, into a three-day weekend celebration, has completely detracted from its intended purpose.
Memorial Day is not a party holiday. It’s not a day to get drunk with your friends, to have a long weekend, or even to have a neighborhood barbecue–although, if you were planning on grilling out for dinner, anyway, I certainly can’t complain, because the weather is finally right for it.
Memorial Day is not the “unofficial” start of summer. Not a day to open the pool or have a volleyball tournament. Certainly not a day to spend at the races. Why can’t we give the first full weekend in June that distinction–summer’s official start *is* in June, after all.
Memorial Day is certainly not an excuse for stores to have big three-day sales. We don’t need early birds and night owls and lowest prices of the season this weekend. Not that stores seem to need an actual reason to have a sale anymore, anyway.
Memorial Day is not even the proper day to thank your neighbor who has served in the military. Save that for every other day–they deserve it! But that’s not what Memorial Day is for.
Memorial Day, is, as its name suggests, a day to remember. To remember those brave men and women who gave their lives in service to our great country. To thank their surviving families for making the ultimate sacrifice.
Go to a parade to honor our fallen soldiers today. Visit a memorial or cemetery. Fly your flag at half-staff, but only until noon. Have a moment of silence (preferably at three o’clock, local time), to ponder what some gave, and to thank God for those willing to give their all.
But please, don’t turn this somber day into an excuse to party. There are plenty of other summer days for that. Let today be what it’s supposed to be–a day to commemorate U.S. Service Members who died in military service, and to remember how fortunate we are that there are men and women who have been willing to defend a country full of people they’ve never even met to the bitter end.
“The sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them.” Ronald Reagan, Memorial Day 1982