Memorial Day: A Catalyst for Learning, Gratitude, and Kindness

Memorial Day: A Catalyst for Learning,
Gratitude, and Kindness


Red poppies are associated with Memorial Day. Do you know why? Find out in this article, The Significance of Poppies and download this worksheet to supplement learning with young children.

History: What is Memorial Day? According to, Memorial Day “started off as a somber day of remembrance; a day when Americans went to cemeteries and placed flags or flowers on the graves of our war dead. It was a day to remember ancestors, family members, and loved ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice… But now, too many people ‘celebrate’ the day without more than casual thought to the purpose and meaning of the day. How do we honor the 1.8 million that gave their lives for America since 1775? How do we thank them for their sacrifice?” Learn more about the traditional observance, history, and origins of Memorial Day at

Online Resource: Learning about the individuals who served in wartime can have a significant impact on our sense of appreciation as we remember their acts of service. Introduce yourself to the American Vietnam War Veterans who were born on this day/month and those who died on this day/month. How does learning of their age, race, hometown, religion, marital status, length of service, how and where they perished, and reading comments from friends and family, impact your emotional connection to the people who served our country?

Local Cemeteries/Self-Directed Learning: Another way to learn about veterans who served our country is by visiting historic graveyards. In Agawam at the Massachusetts Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery, nearly 10,000 veterans and their dependents have been interred, hosting annual Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day ceremonies. Filled with stone markers that chronicle a community’s history, local cemeteries can provide visitors with a look deep into the past and even into the lives of those who have served our country. Families wishing to engage in self-guided tours of a historic cemetery can visit Longmeadow’s Olde Burying Yard section of the Longmeadow Cemetery, where a collection of headstones serve as a museum chronicling the town’s history. Some gravestones can be explored via virtual tour, while others must be located in person. Historic Northampton offers virtual tours of the city’s Bridge Street Cemetery, a 300-year-old graveyard that is the final resting place of many notable Northamptonites.

Volunteer Opportunity: Remembering American veteran’s also happens in December with the national program, Wreaths Across America. Look for volunteer opportunities at the Massachusetts Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Agawam, MA during their annual placement of wreaths which happens on the 3rd Saturday of December.


“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
-William Arthur Ward

Letters of Appreciation: In addition to remembering those who died while serving our country, Memorial Day can also be a day to pause and express appreciation towards those who survived and are currently serving our country. Express gratitude towards American veterans for their past or present service with a letter of thanks:

  • A Million Thanks: A Million Thanks provides support and appreciation to our active and veteran military men and women through sending letters and granting betterment of life wishes, as well as providing higher education scholarships to their children. To date, A Million Thanks has distributed more than seven million letters U.S. troops stationed around the world.
  • Letters of Gratitude: Operation Gratitude compiles care packages which also includes a bundle of letters from the American people, thanking Troops, Veterans, New Recruits, or First Responders for their service to our country.

Spread the Bread: Does your family do a lot of baking? Want to be inspired by kindness and appreciation to teach your kids about pastry arts in the form of bread baking? Why not take to the kitchen and make a loaf or two and share with a local veteran? Spread the Bread, a global grassroots bread-spreading initiative encourages families and civic organizations to do just that! Community members are invited to bake (or buy) bread, wrap it with a note of kindness, inspiration, or gratitude, and to offer them as a gift to local veterans while connecting with your community.


Care Bags: Non-monetary contributions are used to make VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System patients’ stay more enjoyable. Items which are accepted include: coffee and/or popcorn; new clothing, shower shoes, or sneakers; personal care items (i.e., disposable razors, deodorant, skin lotion, etc.); and note cards or paper, pens, stamps. To arrange a time to drop off your donations in Leeds, MA, call Christina Bertrand at 413-584-4040 x2340, or email Learn more about how to create your own care bags at home in our post, Community Service: Creating Care Bags for Giving.

Ongoing Volunteer Opportunities: Volunteers provide many important functions for VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System medical center facilities and help make a veteran’s stay more enjoyable. Volunteers can perform a number of services, and a volunteer’s talents are closely matched with one of their many assignments. To learn how to become a volunteer, visit

Hospice: Life-long learners ages 55+ can volunteer to help hospice patients who are American veterans with Ascend Hospice.

Photo credits:
(cc) “Poppies” by Susanne Nilsson
(c) “Cemetery/WWII” by Sienna Wildfield
(c) “Soldier On” by Sienna Wildfield


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