Remembering Sacrifice: Teaching Children About Memorial Day With Biblical Wisdom

As a homeschool mom, I often feel double the pressure to teach the kids about everything since there is no academic counterpart. Memorial Day is a tricky topic to cover, especially for young kids, as this day of remembrance is specifically for the people who died during active service. I think John 15:13 illustrates what it means to join the military and why we want to take the time to remember the sacrifices soldiers make. It says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” So, how can we teach children about Memorial Day with biblical wisdom?

Teaching Young Children

I tend to gear these types of lessons toward our fourteen-year-old, but that doesn’t mean the little ones should be left out.

PBS Learning Media has a great short video explaining this holiday, beginning with its origins when it was known as Decoration Day. I like the video because it uses PBS Kids’ typical format with music and bright colors to keep children engaged. It also concludes on an open-ended note, encouraging active participation and engagement from the kids.

It’s an opportunity to discuss the sacrifices our armed forces and their families make while discussing biblical principles. An example of an open-ended question to ask could be: Who volunteers to protect their country and why?

This reminds me of Isaiah 6:8, which says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!'”

The Poppy Story

The American Legion’s website has a lovely poem that parents can read to their children called “In Flanders Fields.” The poem is written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, M.D., who served on the front lines during World War I. He talks about the fields of poppies that grew on the battlefields after the war.

Scientists came to believe that the flourishing growth of the red poppy on the battlefields was due to the rubble left behind after buildings were destroyed. The lime from those fallen buildings encouraged the poppy flowers’ growth.

On September 27, 1920, The American Legion adopted the poppy as a symbol for soldiers who had died in battle. This led to the establishment of Poppy Day, a global celebration of remembrance.

This story lends well to studying McCrae’s poem, literature about WWI and The Poppy, and Memorial Day. It also presents an opportunity to discuss science, such as the soil conditions and how lime sediment nourishes native plants.

For Bible study, how amazing is it that on the grounds where lives were lost in the ugliest way, God allowed that soil to be just right for something so beautiful to grow? This reminds me of1 Peter 5:10, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

The conversation with your kids can be as simple as a comparison. If the soil polluted by the spoils of war can go on to house the red poppy, imagine how Christ can restore us after suffering.

The symbolism of the red poppy to the blood soldiers shed allows for an organic connection to the sacrifice our military and their families make.

As a follow-up, you could discuss Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary.

These connections can be tailored to discuss the people in your world. Do you know someone who died in Afghanistan or Iraq? Both my and my husband’s fathers were drafted in Vietnam. We celebrate them on Veteran’s Day, but we still discuss people they knew who didn’t make it home with our boys as part of Memorial Day.

2 Timothy 4:7 says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Those who go to war to keep us safe here at home run the race for their family and friends. They fight the good fight on our behalf.

Visit a Veteran Cemetery

Some people find visiting cemeteries uncomfortable, but they are also rich in history. You can visit the National Cemetery Administration website to find the nearest veteran cemetery to your home. These cemeteries are incredibly well-kept, visiting them is free, and in most cases, they are open from sunrise to sunset.

With my boys, anything that lets them be outside is a bonus, and reading the older tombstones honors the sacrifices those soldiers made to keep us safe here at home. Often, these tombstones have Bible verses that allow an additional opportunity to get the Bible out and discuss scripture with the kids.

National Moment of Remembrance

President Clinton established the National Moment of Remembrance. At 3 p.m. each Memorial Day, for one minute, we are called “to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.” Practicing this reflection as a family provides an intentional time to ponder those sacrifices and pray over those who died, giving us their all and their families.

It’s also an opportunity to pray for active military personnel and their families and to read the scripture together. This is a chance to practice Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

When people die, we often ask why. I know I have struggled when loved ones passed away. I can only imagine what that struggle is like for children to process.

I find comfort in Romans 5:3-5, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

We can also remember the sacrifices soldiers make while teaching our children about Memorial Day with biblical wisdom by contacting a local VFW, taking a trip to the library or getting involved with organizations like Operation Gratitude and A Million Thanks. You can send support and encouragement cards to service members overseas through either organization.

As you hold these conversations with your kids, they might ask how soldiers can be so brave. Ephesians 6:13-15 answers that question. It says, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

Share this post: