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  • Writer's pictureKristy Verdi

Honor Memorial Day: Children Need To Know; Freedom Isn’t Free.

Updated: May 18, 2023

By Dr. Kristy Verdi, Founder and Executive Director, Learn and Serve Tampa, Inc.

(15 May 2023, Tampa, FL.) Everytime I am near Ms. T, I can't help but feel her energy. Her drive is neverending, her many volunteer missions to honor her only son who was killed in action in 2011. For her, every day is Memorial Day. So, the last Monday in May isn't much different than any other day. Perhaps, for her, the exception is that she comes together with other mothers, fathers, children, spouses, and siblings who share that inauspicious distinction. These Gold Star families have lost their loved ones in military action as they served in the United States Armed Forces. They recognize Memorial Day, but they never celebrate it. But, most Americans can and do, and Gold Star Mothers, like Ms. T, are thankful for that. After all, her son died fighting to defend our right to do so.

Memorial Day, originally called Remembrance Day, is a day to honor those who were killed as they carried out their commitment to defend us. US! The ones who are still here. All Americans should recognize this federal holiday for what it is. The sacrifices made by some so others can be free to have a picnic, go to the beach, or play a round of golf. To celebrate life and freedom. But do our children know this? Do they see their adults honoring these sacrifices, even for a moment or two, on Memorial Day each year?

It is our responsibility to make sure children understand its meaning and purpose. Yes, it is taught in schools, but is it practiced in homes? In recent years, many Florida school districts have ended the school year on the Friday before Memorial Day. Even when students were still in school after Memorial Day, the countdown to summer was on. As a history and civics teacher, I reminded my students that the Monday after we left school was a special day and asked them to remember and honor our lost service-members somehow before starting their summer celebration. But, I never really know if my encouragement bore any fruit. Summer had begun and I wouldn’t see my students again until school started again in August.

Parents, it is up to you to make sure your children know that Memorial Day was not set aside by our Federal government for cookouts, parades, and start-of-summer celebrations. Families can, and should, plan BBQ's and enjoy some pool time. Teens should sleep in on their first Monday out of school. But, at some point during the weekend of fun, there needs to be a moment in which we honor those who sacrificed so much, the fallen and their families. Parents need to start an intentional conversation about our summertime kickoff, and all of our freedoms, for which many American service members made the ultimate sacrifice. Furthermore, Memorial Day is not just about those who died. It's about those left behind, our Gold Star Families, and the sacrifices they have made as well. People like Ms. T, who gives of herself every day in honor of her lost son.

So, before the summer festivities begin, find the time to talk to your children about the meaning and purpose of Memorial Day. If possible, attend a ceremony. There are several in Tampa:

  • American Legion Post 5, 3810 W Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33609 10:45 A.M.

  • MacDill Park on the Tampa Riverwalk, 100 N. Ashley St., 11:00-11:30 AM

  • Sons of AmVets of Tampa Post 4, 1014 Skipper Rd, Tampa, FL 33613, 1:00 P.M.

  • Veterans Memorial Park, 3602 US-301, Tampa, FL 33619, 1:00 -4:00 PM .

  • Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Day Family Picnic, 2010 W Morrison Ave, Tampa, FL 33606, 2:00 PM

  • Sons of AmVets of Tampa Post 4, 1014 Skipper Rd, Tampa, FL 33613, 1:00 P.M.

If you are not near a service, gather the family around and talk about the meaning of Memorial Day. Set an alarm for 3pm local time and observe the National Moment of Remembrance. If you fly a US flag, be sure to fly it at half mast until noon (Ducksters). Then, remind your children what the red, white, and blue decorations represent: red for valor and hardiness; white for purity and innocence; and blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice (American Legion). Set a place for the Fallen Comrade or even a table and explain the symbolism of the white tablecloth, single red rose, salt, and inverted glass (War Memorial Center). If you are fortunate enough to have never lost any loved ones to war or conflict, research and find a local service member killed in action and honor that individual during your pre-meal blessings. Not much to ask. And then, your summer of freedom can begin.

As a service leader, I like to engage students in memorial projects. Over the years, my students have honored the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, provided hand-made gifts to veterans on Veterans Day, and created a memorial wall for service-members killed in the War on Terror. You can engage your own children in service on Memorial Day. Sign up to put up flags at a military cemetery. Make paper red poppies and hand them out or sell them to raise money for a worthy cause. Make cards for Gold Star Moms. Remind them that their service honors the sacrifices of others.

This year, I will miss my regular Memorial Day service to be with family on the farm. There will not be any little ones around, but the adults know they will hear the stories I carry from people like Ms. T. It is important that her son be remembered. As long as his memory is honored, he is still serving us, and his sacrifice, his death, and those of other service members who died like him, will not have been in vain.

Works Cited

Ducksters. "Holidays for Kids: Memorial Day." Ducksters, Technological Solutions, Inc. (TSI), Accessed 15 May 2023.

“What Do the Colors of the Flag Mean?” The American Legion, 2022,

“Missing Man Table.” War Memorial Center, 2022,,who%20did%20not%20come%20home.

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