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Students learn meaning of Memorial Day

 Air Force veteran and Godwin teacher Danny Derden.

Students at Godwin Elementary were reminded about the meaning of Memorial Day when 5th-grade teacher and veteran Danny Derden created a museum in his classroom to display memorabilia that depicts what the holiday is all about.

To kick off the visit to the Memorial Day museum, students watched a somber PowerPoint that shared information behind the holiday.

After transforming his classroom into a military memorabilia exhibit and memorial, Derden invited students from every class and grade level to show them that the holiday is more than just a day off from school.

“I’m a veteran from a family of veterans, so Memorial Day is a big deal in my family,” said Derden, who served in the Air Force. “I grew up around the military until I retired and became a teacher. I found myself surrounded by young people with limited knowledge of the military, but I learned they were very interested in my stories about it. I believe it’s important to encourage my students’ interests.”

Mr. Derden said it makes sense to tie this information in with teaching about holidays.

“I have all this stuff from 25 years of service, so why not create a Memorial Day museum,” he said.

But Mr. Derden emphasized that the focus is not just about cool memorabilia.

Students in Ms. Argo's 4th-grade class watch the Memorial Day video.

Paxton McCluskey, a Godwin 4th-grader, summed it up very well when Mr. Derden asked students to share what they believed was the meaning of Memorial Day.

“It’s a day to remember soldiers who fought in the war, but lost their life,” Paxton said.

It’s evident that Mr. Derden is passionate about the military and its role to protect the citizens of the United States as he prides himself in being able to share a part of history with the students.

“I want them to understand what it means to serve,” he said. “But not only that, but what it means to make the ultimate sacrifice by giving your life for your country. We also hit on tough subjects like veteran suicides and all the homeless veterans.”

According to Mr. Derden, he believes he may be retired, but it’s still his duty to put veteran issues in the limelight to help take care of the men and women who have served their country.

“I want to do what I can to help, and at same time, educate the generations coming up,” he said.

Mr. Derden said the visit through his museum is not only about interesting facts and photos.

“Some kids have never seen a uniform, and they enjoy looking at all memorabilia,” he said. “But some of these photos are sad. You can get teary eyed, and for me, it’s very personal.

“It’s not my goal to make children cry,” Mr. Derden continued. “But I believe all Americans should feel something about Memorial Day. It’s not just about barbecues.”