A lot of times federal holidays likes Veterans Day become another fall break to a lot of families. The convenience of time off and the possibility of a short vacation tends to cloud the true reason behind the holiday. Now more than ever, I believe it’s important to educate ourselves and our kids on national holidays, especially ones like Veterans Day that deserves our attention and intentionality. Luckily, there are museums and memorials all around the country that offer great destinations to spend Veterans Day.
- National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1919, citizens of Kansas City raised more than 2.5 million in 10 days to build this memorial and museum. Calvin Coolidge gave the dedication speech. In his speech he said, “It [The Liberty Memorial] has not been raised to commemorate war and victory, but rather the results of war and victory which are embodied in peace and liberty …” If you aren’t able to visit in person, they offer an online collection database where you can search digital records that begin in 1920. https://www.theworldwar.org/explore/online-collections-database
- The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. This past spring, my family had the opportunity to visit this museum and it was phenomenal. We have a nine-year-old and a four year old, and while they weren’t able to understand it all, everyone left knowing more than they did going in. And they both really enjoyed it. The mission of the museum states, “The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world —why it was fought, how it was won and what it means today — so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. https://www.nationalww2museum.org/
- The National Vietnam War Museum in Weatherford, Texas. Their mission statement reads, “To promote an understanding of the Vietnam Era, while honoring those who served.” They have both indoor and outdoor exhibits, including a Vietnam Memorial Garden that is a half scale version of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. Their website goes on to say, “The museum will be designed to tell the unbiased story of the more than 5 million servicemen and women who served there; the civilian contractors who supported their efforts; the Vietnamese people, their culture and history; and those on the home front, both those who supported and those who protested the war.” https://www.nationalvnwarmuseum.org/the-museum-today.html
- Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The website reads, “The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War, the Union victory that ended General Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North.” The museum, visit center and battlefield are all part of the park. There are tour guides, bus tours, private tours, self-tours or a narrated auto tour of the battlefield. There are other sites to visit and several ranger programs available. You can also do virtual and 3D tours. https://www.nps.gov/gett/index.htm
- Korean War Memorial in Washington, District of Columbia. The website states, “The memorial commemorates the sacrifices of the 5.8 million Americans who served in the U.S. armed services during the three-year period of the Korean War.” The memorial includes The Mural Wall, Pool of Remembrance, Honor Roll, United Nations’ Curb and the Dedication Stone. https://www.abmc.gov/about-us/history/korean-war-memorial
- The National Memorial Arch at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The archway was dedicated to the arrival of George Washington into Valley Forge as he led the Continental Army. The archway was dedicated in 1917. The website says, “It was designed by Paul Philippe Cret, and the inspiration for the archway came from the Arch of Titus in Rome. It is thought that the time the army spent at Valley Forge played a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War.” https://www.attractionsofamerica.com/thingstodo/10-famous-war-memorials-dedicated-to-real-heroes-in-the-usa.php
- The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Fort Myer, Virginia. This is a special place to visit for Veterans Day. I went to visit as a kid and it left a big impression. On the website, they also offer educational materials and lesson plans specific to Veterans Day. https://education.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Themes/Tomb-of-the-Unknown-Soldier
In conclusion, these are just a few of the museums and memorials all around the country and the world that highlight the sacrifices made by veterans throughout our nation’s history. I encourage you and your family to do some research on ones around your area if you can’t travel far to visit a museum or memorial. Several of these websites offer online resources and educational material. It’s important to pass on the significance of days like Veterans Day to the next generation and to remind ourselves freedom doesn’t come free.