One of my son’s homework assignments this week was to ask an adult about Veterans Day. I already tried to explain it once by saying that Veterans Day was a time when we honored those who fought for our freedom. “Oh,” he said, “so we’re just going to go there and then come back? I like that place, it is my favorite”. Whhhhaaa? Oh wait; my Mother-In-Law has a camp in Freedom, New Hampshire. THAT’S what he thought I meant. Concept FAIL.
Next, I turned to Grandpa. His dad, brother and son were Marines. His explanation was slightly more effective than mine but my son is 5, so these concepts are not going to be acquired instantly. Add to that, that no one in our immediate circle has been deployed or worse died in combat. This is going to take a lot of repetition.
I thought that maybe a trip to the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscowan would further reinforce the message. My first thought was to take him to the annual Veterans Day ceremony, but something told me he wasn’t quite ready for that yet.
According to the web site the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery was established by legislation in 1997. The first internment took place in November of that year. The 104-acre site used to be a state forest and phase one of improvements was completed in August of 2003. Currently, there are 14 acres that have been improved and are available to inter veterans. As we entered the cemetery, there were flagpoles on both sides. Sadly, the flags were already at half-staff due to the tragedy at Fort Hood.
After we parked, we headed for the memorial walkway that commemorates each branch of the military and the service organizations that support the veterans. Mim, enjoyed following the path and along the way he stopped to inspect some of the memorials and plaques. He had to be discouraged from climbing the larger stone monuments.
He’s just learning to read, so he enjoyed finding some of his sight words and letters in some of the abbreviations (i.e. U.S.N.). As we completed the path, Taps played to mark the top of the hour. I belatedly remembered to grab the ball cap from his head. I guess we both have some learning to do with respect to being respectful.
Next we crossed the street, and explored the niche where cremated remains are interred. There are rows assigned letters of the alphabet so that families can locate their loved ones. He thought the big letters were pretty cool.
We crossed the street again to the flagpole flanked by plaques with the seals of each of the military branches and the state of New Hampshire. Concrete paths emanated out from the base of the flagpole like spokes on a wheel, and Mim raced up each path. When I next looked up he was barrel rolling down the grassy hill. *hand to forehead*
I have no doubt that some of the souls interred there were looking down and chuckling at the innocent antics of a 5 year old boy, but I didn’t want anyone to think he was being irreverent or I callous, so I was the party pooper and told him he had to stay on the concrete paths (and on his feet).
Next he wanted me to go see all the “rocks in the grass”. I followed him up the path and explained that those were head stones marking the graves of soldiers who died. The first one we looked at was a woman who had served in World War II. The marker listed her, among other things, as “beloved, wife and mother.” After I read the marker to him, he nodded his head and said to himself “Moms can be Bet er ans too.” This seemed to impress him.
Next we explored the section where full caskets are buried. It is a sad, but awe-inspiring sight. “Wow, that’s a lot of statues Mom.” Indeed, it was.
I’m glad we made the trip. I hope someday that our entire family can go for the annual Veterans Day ceremony, but for now, we’ve started planting the seeds of understanding.
I was not in favor of our leader’s decision to invade Iraq, but we live in a democracy and I was in the minority. Our soldiers fight for my freedom to disagree. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who heed the call to serve. I am grateful that they are willing to make the sacrifices that come with being a soldier. I am also grateful to their families for their support and the sacrifices they have made.