I’m a military wife and a Gold Star sister; you’d think that being patriotic would run in my kids’ veins. And you know what, it does, to an extent. I’m so proud of the way they respect their country and their flag; after all, it’s hard not to when you grow up seeing how patriotic both of your parents are. But even if I weren’t a military wife, even if my brother had never been killed in combat, I would still value instilling patriotism in my kids.
Photo From Quirk Advertising of Fort Worth, TX.
Why? I cultivate a patriotic spirit in my kids to:
- 1. Preserve History
I don’t want history to be lost. I trust and hope that my kids are getting a good dose of history in their schoolwork (I’m fully accountable for that one since I homeschool them) but I go the extra mile to make sure they understand our nation’s pivotal events like the world wars, 9/11 and presidential assassinations by implementing history into daily life, both in and outside of homework. For me, this could look like allowing them to pick out a book or movie from the library that teaches about a historical person or event. Even if it’s historical fiction, they will likely learn a few valuable tidbits about a figure or a time period that interests them in a way they aren’t likely to forget. The point is to not limit history to the classroom. Let learning about it be an ongoing activity or conversation, however that looks for your family.
- 2. Encourage Respect
Another reason I want them to be patriotic is so that they will speak respectfully of the president in office, no matter who he or she is. This is something my dad really impressed on me while I was growing up, and I am so thankful. Now, being a military spouse, it is my duty to show respect to our Commander in Chief, as my actions are a reflection on my husband. If I speak poorly of the president or any other government officials, it won’t be long before my kids follow my example and think it’s okay to disrespect all kinds of authorities with their words. At the end of the day, if my children grow up hearing and believing nonstop negativity about our president or our government, they won’t feel much of an incentive to participate in voting or making positive change, and I want them to learn to formulate their own opinions. This is so important to me because I want to teach my children that they can make positive change on policies without attacking another person. They can have conversations with others with opposing views and still be respectful. They can even disagree with someone they support, while knowing how to take action in a positive way. Voter turnout is low among young people, and I feel a responsibility as a mom to turn that trend around by starting with my kids.
- 3. Remember Sacrifice
As a Gold Star Family, my children have seen and experienced the impact of sacrifice firsthand. In teaching patriotism to your children, I highly recommend taking them to the Arlington National Cemetery when you get the chance. If you visit Section 60, you’ll likely find a Gold Star family visiting the grave of a loved one. Encourage your kids to talk to those visiting the grave and ask about the fallen individual they are there to honor; the family will probably be touched and eager to talk about their loved one, and I doubt your kids will ever forget that emotional, personal connection of knowing what it means to honor our country and those who serve it.
But you don’t have to travel to D.C. to instill the importance of honoring veterans in your kids. My children and I regularly make and send out care packages to military members with our personal touches inside. When we do so, I remind them of the sacrifice their uncle made and that their father makes so they recognize the value of giving back. Maybe there is a charity near you that serves veterans or helps put together supplies for soldiers. However you decide to do so, take the time to show your kids the importance of honoring our military service members.
As parents, we know that we are raising up the next generation. Can you imagine what a difference it would make in this country if we empowered a patriotic generation of young people? When I look around and see all of the dissonance and fear between people, I long for them to come together under a common agreement that we care for and about our country, even if we have different opinions and ideas about how that should be done. We don’t have to approve of everything going on in our government to recognize and honor who it was founded by and the values it was built on. I am proud to be an American, and I want my kids to be, too.
Renee Nickell, military wife, mother of four, author and Gold Star sibling to Major Samuel Griffith, USMC, penned her first non-fiction memoir after her brother was killed in action. “Always My Hero: The Road to Hope & Healing Following My Brother’s Death in Afghanistan” will be available June 14.