Using Family Military Service To Teach Patriotism

Teaching your children about their family military service is an important aspect of teaching your children family history to help instill a sense of family pride. Family military service helps to foster a sense of patriotism in your children.  They realize that  military service members are people who leave families too.  It’s a great way to show them the sacrifices military members and their families make. They learn to take pride in their country in an effort to honor their grandparent in any way possible. It’s also an integral part of their family history which should always be honored and learned by children as part of their upbringing.

One of the things that we did to commemorate Grampa  after his death was to burn a tattered American flag.  You know that the proper way to dispose of a ripped American flag is to burn it , right?  I think I heard about it in high school which was many moons ago in case you wondered. I forgot until my brother in  law presented this amazing idea from one of his children to work through their grief.  Being that we were staying with Grammy for a few days after the death, he had no choice but to include us as well. It turned out to be an extraordinary way for the entire family to come together as we all traded stories as well as learned more about a beloved loved one.

Why did we burn a flag?  Grampa served in the Navy during the Vietnam war. Everyone knew that story well.  Something  we didn’t know was that he joined the Navy because he was drafted into the Army.  Who knew you could join a different military branch once you were drafted?  He served on the USS Constellation during the war.We had met several Navy buddies that he had  kept in touch with after their service. In the Navy, Grampa was affectionately called Grit in nod to his Southern upbringing.  Beats being called Flash because you are so slow. (Love you Flash!).  I was flabbergasted to discover that Grammy never saw Grampa in his Navy uniform.  He always changed out before meeting up with her.

I must give credit for this idea to my nephew, Cody.  He was the one who thought this up as a memorial to Grampa so we let him lead the way. He managed to get a flag that needed to be disposed of from a friend’s  mom at school.  He and his dad tore it into pieces for everyone. The stars for Grammy and a set of stripes for each son and grandchild. The daughter in laws were there to support their respective families and to take pictures to memorialize the event. Let me be clear that this is not the proper way to burn an American flag (you should fold it first then burn it). This is what worked for our family as we worked through our grief.  Michael and I made sure to teach the proper way to burn a flag to the children at a later time when emotions weren’t so raw.
Grammy put her stars on first then it went in birth order, oldest to youngest.  Each person put their portion on the fire then we had a few moments of silence.  This was by far the toughest part.  Standing alone with your thoughts about someone that you will never see again that was dear to you takes strength only God can give. Madison struggled greatly with this part as it visibly distressed her . Logan was happy to be outside eating marshmallows oblivious to the pain of the people around him. This is where autism saved him from his grief. In the end, it was a bonding experience for the grandchildren.  They will each have this memory in their hearts forever. It was a emotional moment that brought much needed closure to all of us.
Now when we study military history or the draft for the Vietnam war, we have something personal to make it come alive.  It will mean more to the children as they study it since it’s part of their family history. This is a great concept for my highly visual learners especially Logan, who like most people with autism thinks in pictures.  Learning anything about the military should always involve any parts family members had to play in it.  It builds family unity as well as makes learning fun.