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Today is Monday, November 7, 2016. It is the day before the most bizarre Presidential election the United States has ever seen. How will you vote tomorrow and how will you feel about your vote? What will tomorrow and the next four years bring to our country? How will it impact the future of our great land? Even the Promised Land? What can we as a people do when the values of integrity, morality, civility and concern for one’s fellowman, seem to have been largely cast aside by our two candidates, even though they declare otherwise publicly?
For many Americans, these foundational values, so woven into our very beings – both individually and as a nation – seem to be as outmoded as the horse and buggy for transportation. It is distressing to be so uncomfortable with the choices before us.
While the immediate future is unclear and of great concern, there are two places where we can find security, peace, comfort and inspiration: Our Savior and our American veterans, the men and women who have served our Country with valor, dignity and sacrifice. They are the heroes we and our loved ones can look to now and remind ourselves of America’s goodness in the past, in the present and in the future.
Election Day, always on a Tuesday, means that Election Eve is also Family Home Evening. What a great opportunity an evening dedicated to our Veterans can be families of all ages. Strengthening our families serves to strengthen our nation as we educate ourselves and acknowledge the sacrifices that have been made for each of us that provides the freedom we enjoy. Even with our troubles.
Other than exercising our right and great privilege to vote, what could possibly be more important tonight and this week than honoring our military personnel and our Country?
Here are 5 ideas for meaningful Family Home Evening lessons and activities for now and later, too!
1. The Importance of Gratitude and Turning To The Lord
For young families, a retelling of the story of the Savior with the 10 lepers is appropriate.
For older families, reading D&C 98:1-10, written for the early Saints and their trials with the government, is a very special reading and meaningful for us now, to see that war, the service that is required to support the land, and the suffering that go with it, are part of mortality and God recognizes it as such:
1. Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea,rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;
2. Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.
3. Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.
4. And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.
5. And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.
6. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;
7. And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.
8. I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.
9. Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.
10. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.
2. Why Do We Celebrate Veterans Day?
It is pleasing and needful as a nation to gather together with a dedicated day to honor those who have served. It’s important (and fun) to learn about the history of Veterans Day. The 11th day of the 11th month of the year pays tribute to all American veterans, living or dead, but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime. Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance. November 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. It is celebrated on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. Many areas celebrate with parades and gatherings to honor their own very special Vets.
There are many education websites that will have additional information and activities for enriching your knowledge in age-appropriate ways for your family. Just google “Veterans Day and children.”
There are also many short, professionally done videos about our Veterans and their service at www. History.com. Young children will enjoy learning about Benji, a Golden Retriever service dog who helps a young father who served in Iraq and who lost his leg.
Go to: http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/veterans-day-facts.
3. Say Thanks With A Letter Or A Visit
It’s simple for adults and children in Family Home Evening to spend some time simply writing letters of gratitude to Vets in your family, Ward or community, or local hospital. Every retirement and nursing home will have Vets who will be thrilled with some cards and pictures your family creates.
There are a number of websites that will help you send cards and letters, such as www.operationwearehere.com.
Arrange to spend an hour or two visiting with a Veteran, either at their home or invite them to yours. Every ward, every community, every nursing/retirement home has Veterans who will be thrilled to talk about their experiences. Make an appointment, then take a flag, your family and a treat and listen to their tales.
In the Springfield Ward of the Annandale Stake, our favorite World War II Vet was Mac McCants. He was invited regularly to dinner, and even to Young Men to share his stories and impart of his wisdom, experience and courage. Our family treasures those times with him.
4. Attend Events That Honor Veterans
As you learn more about their service and sacrifice, you can create a family goal in Family Home Evening to support the Vets around you by attending local public events that honor them.
Bennie Denton, a member of the Jackson Ward, Memphis North Stake is a Viet Nam vet himself. Drafted into service for the Viet Nam War in 1966, he remembers well the sacrifices, large and small, that every soldier made and makes, as they loyally and honorably serve.
Eight years ago he joined the local chapter of Viet Nam Veterans of America. Sensing a need within the community to honor local Veterans, he organized the Jackson, Tennessee Viet Nam Honor Guard with about ten other vets. They created a sharp looking uniform and now sponsor regular activities in the community to bring honor to those who have served.
They visit retirement and nursing homes, honor local vets on their birthdays and special days with a special flag ceremony and speech. They perform well-executed Color Guard Postings of the Flag at community events, reach out to schools, and are even authorized to do an official 21 gun salute at local funerals for Veterans.
While most of us cannot do as much as Brother Denton, we can attend the events that these inspired individuals sponsor. Our support and enthusiasm sends an important message of gratitude to our Vets, our families, our communities, our Country and the Lord himself. Time spent at these gatherings increase our own sense of patriotism and pride. They create a unique joy and a yearning to better honor those who have gone before.
5. Honor The Flag
You and your family can look at a flag or pictures of the flag. It is the symbol of our great Nation and our freedom through the sacrifices of countless Veterans and military personnel.
If you have a Boy Scout, ask him tell you about folding the flag and the importance of the care and exactness it requires.
Brother Denton and his Honor Guard regularly share the following in their flag ceremonies:
The American Flag And The Thirteen Folds
Did you know that at military funerals, the 21 Gun Salute stands for the sum of the numbers in the year 1776?
Have you ever noticed how the honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the American flag 13 times? You probably thought it was to symbolize the original 13 colonies, but we learn something new every day!
The 1st fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
The 2nd fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.
The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the Veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.
The 4th fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.
The 5th fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decaur, “Our Country”, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.
The 6th fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
The 7th fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.
The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day.
The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.
The 10th fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for defense of our country since they were first born.
The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrews eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the Christians eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.
The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nations motto, “In God We Trust.”
After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges and freedoms we enjoy today.
There are some traditions and ways of doing things that have deep meaning. In the future, you will see flags folded and now you will know why. Share this with the children you love and all others who love the symbol of “Liberty and Freedom.”
Our veterans, in this time of change for our country, ARE what made America great, and continue to BE what makes America great. While turmoil abounds, we can turn to them and the Lord, knowing that our great Land is, indeed the Promised Land, the Land of the free and the home of the brave … because of the brave.
Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life/. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of eleven. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson Tennessee, close to Memphis where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox and Carolyn serves in the Primary Presidency.