How We Celebrate Veterans Day With Our Kids

How We Celebrate Veterans Day With Our Kids

On Veterans Day, a family reflects on the very personal meaning of sacrifice and service.

By Wendy Robinson

His name was Jesse and he was born in 1926 in Virginia. He was African-American and left the segregated South to join the Army. He would go on to serve in the military for decades. Over the course of his life, he got to see the world on multiple overseas assignments. He met a woman while stationed in Panama and had five sons. He saw the desegregation of the armed forces, combat in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the start and slow end to the Cold War.

He did not, however, get to live long enough to meet all of his grandchildren.

His name was Jesse and my children are his grandchildren.

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Veterans Day is a bittersweet day of remembrance. For families like mine who have relatives both living and dead who served in the armed forces, this can be a time to reflect on the sacrifices of military service members and their families. We can remember those who gave their lives or who suffered long-term injuries (physical or otherwise) in defense of our country.

Our family will do all this and more. On Veterans Day, we will talk about the meaning behind the service ribbons in the wooden box of mementos. My son can try on the fatigue jacket with “Robinson” on the chest pocket that my husband keeps in his closet, one of the remaining artifacts of a father he misses every day. We will take out our map of the world and point to the places where Grandpa Jesse served and all the bases where my husband, the Army brat, grew up. We will talk about why people say “thank you” when they see soldiers in uniform. My son might ask questions about what war means, so we can talk about that, but we will also talk about peace and love and how much their grandfather would have liked to meet them.

We’ll talk about why Veterans Day is so much more than just a day off from school.


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His name was Jesse, and we will remember him.

How do you explain Veterans Day to your children?

Wendy Robinson is a writer, working mom, and graduate student. Someday she'd like to sleep in again. She also blogs at

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