I took my children to DC recently. It’s a convenient drive for us, just a couple of hours. Since living here in Virginia the past six years, we’ve only been once. This was to be a quick trip over spring break. The agenda was pretty simple; see all we could see within a two day window before heading to Baltimore for the kid’s first baseball game at Camden Yards. So the itinerary looked something like this: Day 1 Mt. Vernon and Arlington National Cemetery, Day 2 American history, natural history, national archives, and air & space museums, Day 3 head to Baltimore, Day 4 hit the air & space museum’s annex at Dulles airport on the drive home.Arlington National Cemetery left its mark. Both kids were awe struck by the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The kids were curious and asked lots of questions about what they saw and about the people buried there. My youngest daughter chose a special keepsake at the souvenir store of the American history museum the next day. She selected a military medal as one of her mementos. Her reason for the purchase was “to remember the Tomb and the people who died in war.” She wore it on her shirt to dinner that evening.Weeks after returning from our trip she brought home some information from school. The teacher had helped her look up the story of the Memphis Belle, the B-17 bomber flown by US servicemen in WWII. She even had drawn some pictures of the plane. Turns out she also had a clear memory of the planes we saw on our DC trip and she’s been thinking about their stories ever since.
My grandfather had a horrific experience while fighting in the South Pacific in WWII. We don’t know for certain what happened. All we know for sure is that he had nightmares the rest of his life. At the end, he still could not speak of the experience but did manage to apologize to his children for his behavior at various points of his life as he managed to heal the emotional wounds of war.
Even though my daughter had no relation with my grandfather, she is aware of his service and relationship. As I have researched family history and uncovered ancestors who fought in the revolution and civil war I’ve passed those stories on to the kids. I didn’t realize until this weekend that my daughter has been listening, and thinking.
This Memorial Day my hope is that the memories of all who came before us are not forgotten. As long as parents and children can share family stories and history, and can pass along our heritage from one generation to the next, the lives lost won’t be forgotten. So fire up the BBQ, just remember to remember those who paved the way for us all to enjoy more hot summer days!