Life in Europe is really different from life in the U.S. Every time I am there, I get to experience new things, visit new places, and become more immersed in how the European people (especially the Dutch!) honor our World War II soldiers. The things I see and take part in never cease to amaze me. Often because we do nothing like those things in the U.S. We don’t have commemorations like they do in Europe. We don’t have old guilds and people dressed in medieval clothing performing ceremonies to open Congress. It is a whole different world there and one I deeply love.
In September and October I had the opportunity to attend two World War II commemorations. The first was on 20 September in Nijmegen at the Waal River Crossing Commemoration. At this event the Airborne Troops who fought in the Nijmegen area and helped liberate the country were honored and remembered. Flags were flown, speeches given (in Dutch primarily), school children from a nearby school attended to read poems they wrote and lay flowers at the monument for the Airborne, Taps was played and wreaths laid.
On 7 October, I attended the Commemoration for the Airborne at Heteren, near the famous Band of Brothers Crossroads. A similar ceremony was held with flags flying, speeches given, school children reading poems, laying flowers and wreaths, Taps was played and wreaths laid. The difference at this commemoration was my fiancé’s 101st Airborne re-enactment group attended and acted as Color Guard and doves were released at the end. That added another dimension to the ceremony.
How do we engage children in World War II History?
- Take them to ceremonies and commemorations. Help them understand why we are honoring the soldiers, sailors or Marines.
- Take them to visit the American Battle Monument Commission (ABMC) Cemeteries, especially if you have adopted a grave. Help them create a story about the adopted soldier, or any soldier they are drawn to when they visit.
- Encourage special programs at school on D-Day, VJ-Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Liberation Day and other important days.
- Talk to your children about the history of World War II. Explain what a different world we would live in if the other side had won.
Do you have other ideas on how to engage children in World War II research to preserve the stories? Please share in the comments.
© 2016 World War II Research and Writing Center