Memorial Day was established after the Civil War to honor those who had died while in military service. It is observed each year on the last Monday of May. While non-military families often see Memorial Day as the first celebration of summer, those connected to the military are likely to see it differently.
Military-connected students almost certainly attend your schools. There are nearly 2 million children of active-service members — that is, with parents in active duty military, National Guard or Reserves. They live in communities across the nation. More than 80 percent attend public schools.
Things to Know
Here are some helpful things to consider if you are planning learning activities or other student events related to Memorial Day:
- Memorial Day is a solemn day for most military families. Many spend it visiting cemeteries to place flowers or flags on graves. They may attend special programs remembering those who have died in service.
- Children who have lost a loved one through a line-of-duty death often revisit powerful feelings of grief at this time of year.
- Memorial Day is not the same as Veteran’s Day. While Veteran’s Day honors all who have served in our military, Memorial Day focuses particularly on those who have died in the line of duty. This distinction is quite important to military-connected children and their families.
- The TAPS Good Grief Camp is a weekend experience offered over Memorial Day weekend to child survivors of service members who died in the line of duty.
Things to Do
To support military-connected children, especially those who are grieving a line-of-duty death, consider these steps:
- Offer students opportunities to think about and discuss the serious and solemn qualities of Memorial Day.
- If active service members or veterans are invited to speak to students at this time of year, ask them to acknowledge and address the deeper meanings of Memorial Day.
- Support students’ efforts to attend events such as the Good Grief Camp.
- If you know military-connected students, especially if they are grieving, reach out as Memorial Day approaches. Ask them how they’re doing. Ask whether Memorial Day brings up any thoughts or feelings they’d like to talk about. Let them know you’re thinking of them.
The Coalition to Support Grieving Students offers a range of free resources that can help educators learn more about supporting grieving students. The group just released a special module, Supporting Children and Family Survivors of Military Line-of-Duty Deaths. This will be helpful to any educator working with military-connected children.
The Coalition to Support Grieving Students was convened by the New York Life Foundation, a pioneering advocate for the cause of childhood bereavement, and the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement (www.schoolcrisiscenter.org) at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. The coalition created grievingstudents.org, a groundbreaking, practitioner-oriented website designed to provide educators with the information, insights and practical advice they need to better understand and meet the needs of the millions of grieving kids in America’s classrooms.