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Activities for kids on Armed Forces Day

Skip the movies; celebrate with your children

FORT LEWIS MILITARY MUSEUM: Take the kids on a tour. Photo courtesy of Joe Mabel

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Saturday, May 17, Armed Forces Day is coming to a neighborhood near you. Granted, you haven’t done six weeks of shopping to prepare for the Big Day, but are your children jazzed for the Big Day?  

If you check the polls, the same U.S. holidays turn up as the most popular:  Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween always hog the top three slots.  After that, we get a chance to wave the flag a little:  Fourth of July comes in right after the Win, Place and Show.  Easter Sunday is the No. 5 most-liked holiday.

OK, are we there yet (Armed Forces Day, that is)?  We get there when we get there ... sorry:  New Year’s Day is the one we look to in the six slot, followed by Memorial Day, Labor Day, My Birthday ... say what?! ... and finally, Valentine’s Day.

Do you notice something that these have in common, something not shared by, say, Groundhog Day and St. Patrick’s Day?  All the “cool” holidays pull rating points based on their fun factors.  It’s those bags of candy that keep Halloween front-and-center in the kiddies’ minds.  Fourth of July hot dogs and fireworks deliver the fun on a year-in, year-out basis.  Any holiday that bristles with Easter eggs and chocolate is going to pack some serious staying power.

But just because next door Valentine’s Day is more popular than the good ‘ole U.S. of A., it doesn’t mean it has to be that way at your home.  What’s the best way to make a great family weekend out of Armed Forces Day?

As you know, we at The Ranger, NW Airlifter and live to serve. Here is a list of ways in which you can help the kids appreciate their country and enjoy Armed Forces Day with Mom and Dad at the same time.

Give the kids a present to wake up to.  Even an inexpensive Matchbox jet fighter or tank can delight young children if it’s made out of cast metal.  Older kids will go for a McDonald’s gift certificate.  A toy flag stuck into a small gift box with some red, white and blue grass makes a morning surprise “happen.”  Once in a while, you’ve got to sell your kids on it a little bit.

Bake-and-Take.  C’mon, kids, let’s heat up some Toll House cookies and take them on down to the local recruiting station!  There’s a man there who drives trucks, maybe one kind of like your tank.  Let’s ask him how he likes being in the Army.

Once you get on the subject, the basic discussion will fire up by itself.  “Does our country have a powerful army?”  Honey, we have by far the strongest army in the world.  Just one of our aircraft carriers is a lot more powerful than almost any other army in the world.  “Really?”  Sure, let’s go talk to the sergeant about it.  He’ll love the cookies.

Arts and Crafts.  A young child will enjoy making a chain of foil stars; materials are available at Wal-Mart and Fred Meyer as well as at the craft stores that are probably in the same parking lot.  Homemade “medals” are fun — visit to find clear instructions about how to make a wearable medal.  Maybe the medal declares “Life, Liberty and Happiness.”  Children go crazy for a fresh, crisp box of crayons that they can use to color in drawings of actual U.S. medals. Medal outlines can be downloaded in black and white from the Internet.

At, you can find many craft ideas for children.

Pack a care package for deployed troops. Photo credit:

Care packages for servicemembers. Don’t let your favorite soldier be a member of the No Parcel Club!  What to send?  Well, cookies and cakes are probably in decent supply where your favorite soldier is stationed; what soldiers appreciate more are personal items, especially if there is a bit of luxury or pizazz involved.

A pair of mountaineering “extra cushion” socks will impress.  If you do include a tube of toothpaste in your care package, make it luxury toothpaste, tooth-whitening or the like.  A stash of Clif Bars is cool, as is premium jerky, hard candy, trail mix — be sure that snacks have eye appeal and taste bud appeal.

If you send a pair of shoulder strap pads, for carrying 70+ pounds of gear, that’s a guaranteed win — even if your soldier already has a pair, he or she can swap and shop with the extras.  A sleek-looking pair of blackout sunglasses certainly beats membership in the “No Parcel Club.”

How to send? Check for shipping information and various FAQs.

Take a trip to the museum.  Your family can plan their day trip to the Museum of Flight at 9404 East Marginal Way in Seattle.  Even better?  Check out the Lewis Army Museum at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which is the only certified U.S. Army museum on the west coast.

The Lewis Army Museum includes a dozen galleries, including one on the Army’s development of the Northwest region itself.  There is a Gallery of Valor that emphasizes heroes during WWI, WWII and other conflicts.  There is a Military Art Gallery and quite a few others.  The museum is open to the public every Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. except on federal holidays.

Kiddies aren’t tired yet?  Well ... try military dog tags, or pride pins, or American coasters, or a dozen others.  Easy instructions are available at

We could even play soldier. If all else fails, Wal-Mart still sells the good old Xploderz Sneak Attack Blaster for backyard counter-insurgency. Sis will never see it coming.

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