Honoring Our Military Heroes

By Mary Blow on October 26, 2010
  • Grades: 6–8

Lowville, New York, is about 30 miles from Fort Drum, home of the 10th Mountain Division, an infantry division of the United States Army. As a result, we have many military families in our school district. Many of our parents willingly make sacrifices for our country every day. Our students make honorable sacrifices, too, each time they say good-bye to a father or mother who is being deployed overseas.

Lowville, New York, is about 30 miles from Fort Drum, home of the 10th Mountain Division, an infantry division of the United States Army. As a result, we have many military families in our school district. Many of our parents willingly make sacrifices for our country every day. Our students make honorable sacrifices, too, each time they say good-bye to a father or mother who is being deployed overseas.

Unfortunately, over the years, our community, like many others, has experienced the loss of soldiers as a result of war. There are no words to express the sorrow over such losses. So, when November 11th comes around, we stop to honor the men and women who have fallen, who have served, and who are serving in the United States Military. This gives all students the opportunity to celebrate their parents, family members, or friends who are currently serving our country. Included in this post is the 2009 video of Obama's Veterans Day Speech.

 

The History of Veterans Day

Veterans Day was established to mark the “War to End All Wars,” World War I. Each year the Veterans Day National Ceremony is held at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony takes place at 11:00 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. The Treaty of Versailles, signifying the end of World War I, was signed on June 28, 1919, so why do we celebrate Veterans Day when we do? If you want the answer to that question, visit the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Web site and read more about the history of Veterans Day.

During the annual ceremony, a memorial wreath is placed on the Tomb of the Unknowns. Arlington, Virginia, is too far for us to go for a field trip, so we will take a video tour of Arlington National Cemetery instead. This video of President Obama’s Veterans Day speech stresses the importance of the annual ceremony.

 

Veterans_memorial_wall VFW Patriot’s Pen Essay Contest and a Tribute to Our Veterans Wall

My students are going to compete in the Patriot’s Pen Essay Contest, a national essay contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). This year's theme is “Does Patriotism Still Matter?” Students must follow the contest guidelines and submit a 300–400 word essay by November 1, 2010. Before my 6th graders can write about patriotism, they need to study Veterans Day to learn the meaning of the word patriotism. I created a SMART Notebook lesson, Veterans Day, November 11, to provide background information and deepen my students' understanding of the abstract term. The videos in the notebook are accessed through online links. However, the buffering is slow at times, so you may want to download the videos. The quality is better.  
 
Frank moskal dad 003 The resources in the notebook include documentary videos What Is Veterans Day? and History of Veterans Dayan NPR interview with a veteran of the USS Kirk who witnessed the fall of Saigon; a reading of "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrea; images of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Vietnam War Memorial, and the WWII Memorial; and a primary resource image of a WWII soldier from my own collection.

After we finish the essay, my students will create a tribute to our veterans wall in celebration of our military heroes. Each student will write a tribute or dedication who those who have served or are serving in the military.

 

Grammar Connection

This year our NYS ELA Assessments will have multiple choice grammar questions. I feel that students learn their grammar better if they are editing their own writing. However, I am responsible for preparing them for the test, so I weave some state assessment review into my units or activities. Below is an example.

1. Which is grammatically correct?

a. Veteran’s Day

b. Veterans’ Day

c. Veterans Day?

The answer is c. Veterans Day. Why isn’t there an apostrophe in Veterans Day? Because the holiday is in honor of the veterans; they do not own it, so it is not possessive.

 

Enrichment

To celebrate Veterans Day, you can take a virtual field trip to a number of museums or national monuments, including the National World War I MuseumThe National WWII War Memorial, the Smithsonian's collection, The Price of Freedom, Americans at War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, or the WWII Memorial Wall. These sites all offer enriching online learning experiences. 


Additional Teacher Resources

Veterans_day_teacher_resource_guideThere are many resources for celebrating Veterans Day in middle school. The United States Office of Veterans Affairs offers a Teacher Resource Guide: Veterans Day, which includes multiple ideas for planning and celebrating Veterans Day with music, art, food, etc. I also created a Scholastic Book Wizard booklist, “In Honor of Our Soldiers.” Many of these books are in my classroom library because they feature wars that are covered in the 6th grade social studies curriculum.

And even though we are in middle school, there is still room for picture books as read-alouds. Linda Granfield wrote two picture books, In Flanders Fields, which tells the story behind John McCrae’s WWI poem, and Where Poppies Grow, a WWI companion. Haemi Balgassi wrote a beautiful picture book, Peacebound Trains. The historical fiction book is based on Haemi's grandmother's story of being a refugee during the Korean War.

How are you paying tribute to our military heroes? Please feel free to share how you are celebrating Veterans Day with your students.

Comments

Unfortunately, over the years, our community, like many others, has experienced the loss of soldiers as a result of war. There are no words to express the sorrow over such losses. So, when November 11th comes around, we stop to honor the men and women who have fallen, who have served, and who are serving in the United States Military. This gives all students the opportunity to celebrate their parents, family members, or friends who are currently serving our country. Included in this post is the 2009 video of Obama's Veterans Day Speech.
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this is great!

the 3 minute history of veterans day presentation was most helpful, and my fourth graders liked it and learned a lot.

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