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“I Spy” Symbolism on Memorial Day

Memorial Day, like all American holidays, is rich in tradition, history, and symbolism. Unfortunately, some of these can get lost or become overlooked over time. So we’re using a timeless kid game to identify much of the meaning of Memorial Day with our kids.

This Memorial Day weekend, ask your kids to holler if they spot some of the symbols or visuals below. Then take a moment to explain the significance of it. Here we go . . .

I spy, with my little eye:

Red poppy flowers

On September 27, 1920, the poppy became the official flower of The American Legion family to memorialize the soldiers who fought and died during the war. In 1924, the distribution of poppies became a national program of The American Legion.

The American Legion brought National Poppy Day® to the United States by asking Congress to designate the Friday before Memorial Day as National Poppy Day. Wear a red poppy to honor the fallen and support the living who have worn our nation's uniform.

Flowers and flags at cemeteries

It’s a Memorial Day tradition to place flowers and flags at the tombstones of those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. If you have a U.S. National, Veterans, or Local cemetery near you, and if you feel your kids can handle the concept, take a look for the visual symbols honoring our fallen heroes. You may also find heartfelt notes like this one at our local cemetery:


It’s the SOLDIER, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate.

It’s the SOLDIER, not the reporter, who gives us the freedom of the press.

It’s the SOLDIER, not the poet, who gives us the freedom of speech.

It’s the SOLDIER, who serves under the flag, who defends the protestor’s rights to burn the flag.

Isn’t it time now to demonstrate that we support our troops? Were it not for the BRAVE, there would be no LAND OF THE FREE!

American flags flown at half-staff

The United States flag flies at half-staff (or half-mast) when the nation or a state is in mourning. The president (through a Presidential proclamation), a state governor, or the mayor of the District of Columbia can order flags to fly at half-staff. Most often, they do so to mark the death of a government official, military member, or first responder; in honor of Memorial Day or other national day of remembrance; or following a national tragedy.

Memorial Day parades

We are present at patriotic parades led by veterans who served with friends lost in action, as well as civilians who never take for granted those who have selflessly served and ultimately sacrificed. These parades around the country may look slightly scaled back in size this year being at the tail end of the pandemic, but nevertheless we show up in the ways we are able and honor in the ways our fallen heroes deserve.

Opened community pools

While not directly in the spirit of Memorial Day, we use this unofficial marker of summer as a way to remind our kids that America’s superheroes have served and sacrificed for us to be free to do lots of things, including play in a safe society.

Closed schools, post offices, and banks

Again, we use the visuals of closed institutions as a launchpad for the conversation that Americans are taking the day away from work and study to focus the day on remembering our nation’s superheroes -- those who have served and sacrificed for us to be free to learn, study, exchange, and work on all other days.

3 o’clock in the afternoon

See if your kids can spot on the clock when the 3pm hour is approaching on Memorial Day Monday, May 31st. At this time take a moment of silence to remember and thank the fallen heroes we know, and those we will never know, but will always be in our hearts.


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