Each November, the President signs a proclamation declaring November as the time to honor and recognize our nation’s military families. In 2013, President Obama said, “during Military Family Month, we celebrate the families who make daily sacrifices to keep our Nation whole, and we remember a most sacred obligation – to serve them as well as they serve us.”
Personally, I’m well aware of the daily sacrifices that all military families make to keep our nation whole. The grease-stained flight suits, the deployments, the moving. So how do I honor myself? How and why would I celebrate my own membership to this club? November is also the month when we celebrate Veteran’s Day, an official U.S. holiday originally called Armistice Day, designed to celebrate our veterans. But I’m not a veteran either. Okay, so now what?
If November is Military Family Month, why not use this chance to help civilians understand what life is like for military families and veterans. Here are some ideas:
- Check with your children’s teachers and offer to come in and share a military related lesson. For instance, you or your spouse can bring in uniforms, flight helmets or patches and explain the significance of the unit insignia.
- Offer to read military-themed books during library time or in class. My personal favorite is Nubs, The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle by Brian Dennis. Kids in kindergarten through 2nd or 3rd grade will enjoy the sweet tale of a wild pooch who found a home with a big, tough Marine. Teachers can wrap in a lesson on letter writing – and kids can mail Nubs a letter thanking him for his service.
- Night Catch by Brenda Ehrmantraut is a lovely story that helps kids understand that despite a parent or loved one’s physical absence, staying connected isn’t impossible. It’s another book that you or your spouse can read at school or at home. Again, chat with the teacher about a related lesson plan.
- Offer to talk about Veteran’s Day at a local high school. The History Channel has a unique program called “Take a Veteran to School.” It’s important to remember that 99% of our nation does not serve in the military and they have only a tangential connection, at best, to someone who does. There’s an entire how-to guide, lesson plans and suggestions for would-be presenters. Visit www.history.com/veterans to learn more.
- Check with the Public Affairs Officer and see if there are demonstrations or field trip opportunities on base. When we were stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, the K-9 dog trainers were thrilled to show off their furry Marine’s tricks and abilities for local school children.
- Visit an area museum like the National Museum of the Air Force. Triple Ace Col C.E. “Bud” Anderson will share stories and answer questions at a special event on November.
- Anderson flew 116 missions during WWII and later became an acclaimed Fighter test pilot at Wright Patterson. Our WWII veterans are dying at a rate of about 550 a day so take this chance to shake “Bud’s” hand and say thank you.
- Team Red, White and Blue has a Dayton chapter. This non-profit organization, started and staffed by veterans and military spouses, connects civilians and military folks through physical activity like group runs, yoga classes and social gatherings. Check with the Dayton Chapter Captain for upcoming events (www.teamrwb.org).
- Most importantly, don’t forget about your own military kids. My daughters regularly ask if their dad is going to deploy again. They worry about it even though I’ve assured them it’s improbable. So this month, my husband and I will put our phones away and take them on a hike in a nearby preserve and then to their favorite noodle shop. And while we slurp spicy miso and udon, we’ll thank them for their service.
Molly Blake is a freelance writer. Her husband recently retired after serving 20 years in the United States Marine Corps. She attended the University of Dayton and writes about issues affecting military families and other parenting issues. Follow her on twitter @mblakewrites.