Memorial Day is a great time for fathers to drive home some lasting lessons on patriotism, heroism and sacrificing yourself for a worthy cause.

For many years, a dad named Ron spent Memorial Day weekends with his kids and some of their friends doing a fundraiser for Veterans of Foreign Wars who are hospitalized. Many times, those war heroes are forgotten, and this was a worthy effort to provide some relief.

The project involved a running relay all the way across Ron’s state, one mile at a time. One person would run while the rest of the team followed in a van. Ron got a chance to hang out with his kids and their peers, but even better, the teenagers had opportunities to eat dinner with veterans at VFW posts along the way.

The veterans would tell stories, answer questions, and give their unique perspective on the true value of freedom that Americans enjoy, and why sometimes it’s necessary to put yourself in harm’s way for a cause bigger than yourself.

So, Dad, what will you do this weekend with your children? How will you teach them the significance of Memorial Day?

Many of us will never quite understand what Memorial Day is like for those who have waited for loved ones to return from war—or who have received word that their loved one will not be returning. Too many acts of patriotism by these real-life heroes go unnoticed by the rest of our country.

It’s a shame that many children grow up today thinking that Memorial Day is when the public swimming pool opens–at least most years. And maybe dads easily get distracted firing up the grill for the first time each summer.

This year, consider helping your family commemorate the real significance of Memorial Day in some way, even if you stay home or do some other family activity. Talk with your kids about the father-heroes who have given their lives in service for our country, or who are currently serving somewhere. What must it be like for those families who have lost a loved one, or who are separated for a long time?

If you’re planning a cookout or some other family activity, don’t feel guilty, just take it a step further. Touch base with a veteran or two and, if possible, invite them and their family to your gathering. Before you serve up the hamburgers and the great potato salad, say a prayer of gratitude for the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this great country.

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