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Exposing kids to the story of veterans

My kids are pretty good sports about my idealistic, adventurous spirit. They are constantly being exposed to the local culture. This may be through a smattering of meetings, causes or history adventures. Some of this is to expose them to something they may not otherwise experience. However, if the truth be told, a lot of the time I just do not have a baby sitter.

I guess I come by is rightfully. I remember, at my Aunt Nita's funeral, there was a reference to such activity. My cousin, Mark, was reading something she had written before she died, to be read at the funeral as to why she decided she would not want her spirit hanging around too much. The kids would be "scared to death she would load them all in the station wagon and drive them to some church basement to experience the local culture."

Other than the odd reference from my youngest when I say it is time to go, "what meeting is it tonight ... what are we gonna 'learn' now?" All three of them put up with it pretty well. They get really bored, but handle it well.

Monday was actually an exception to the rule of boredom and petty complaining. It was Memorial Day. The kids have always gotten into Memorial Day. Several years ago I took them to the top of the hill at the Wadena cemetery and had them take it all in as we looked at hundreds of golden markers with flags. These decorated the graves of deceased veterans in that little cemetery alone. They really understood it.

After being forced to watch the Ken Burns documentary "The War" and finding out that Great Grandpa Morvig was in the Pacific in World War II, they had a personal connection. Someone they could ask questions. Like most vets who saw action, Grandpa is stoic and quiet about the experience. He does share some of his experiences with the kids. I think that is fantastic.

Back to Memorial Day. I decided to go to the services at the Veterans Museum in Perham. As a bonus, the In Their Own Words exhibit was free until noon that day. I knew the kids would be on a bit of information overload after the service. So, a quick trip viewing the exhibit would be just enough to tolerate.

I had read that an indoor ceremony was different than those held outdoors. I was not disappointed in the least. The service included lighting of candles and a very interesting table setting routine. A small round table was presented, followed the table cloth, salt, a slice of lemon and a Bible among other things. It was to honor the missing in action. The empty chair held the most meaning to all of the kids and me.

The speaker was fantastic. He had what seemed to be hardware store on his chest. One of the kids whispered, "I bet you have to see a lot of action to have all those medals." Indeed, I thought to myself. The soloist was moving, there was a string instrument ensemble and I am always fond of the chance to personally bellow along to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," among others.

While watching the guards replace each other at a very frequent rate, something hit me. These guys are not far off themselves. They had grown quite elderly. I saw many World War II and Korean War hats -- some Vietnam, and that was it. From what I could see, the youngest dressed member of the American Legion served in Vietnam. I pondered why they were switching off so often. I have no idea of the rites of the ceremony. I just wonder if it because they can only stand at attention for so long.

These soldiers are literally a dying breed. Please, take the time to thank a veteran as often as possible. Teach your kids to do the same. For the kids, it may be awkward at first. However, after that vet hears the "thank you," both the kid and veteran will bond. In my experience, there is nothing more meaningful to a service man than a kid simply saying thank you.

So, another Memorial Day in the books. It was a new, wonderful experience. We all got to see the touching sight of a weathered, battle-hardened old man cry. The sacrifice and memories come streaming from an aged heroic figure. Friends, you have not lived until you see a veteran cry. I can not imagine what those eyes have seen.