Editor's note: This blog post was first published on the Huffington Post and featured in Huff/Post50.
Over four decades ago, Led Zeppelin first sang, "...a new day will
dawn for those who stand long,/and the forest will echo with laughter."
While the true meaning of the lyrics can be debated, what does ring true
is the way in which our troops are now welcomed home and thanked for
"standing long" to protect our freedoms.
Veteran's Day is when we offer our thanks and gratitude to our
nation's vets through wreath laying ceremonies, parades and military
exhibits. It's "a new day" for returned soldiers and former military,
who are enjoying a shift in the national mood that went from vilifying
Vietnam and ignoring those who served to fully embracing this
Nowhere is this shift seen more than in intergenerational programs
across the country and abroad that serve as lifelines for military
families and engage older vets as mentors. Among those who offer
programs that connect older adults, children and youth is The New Hampshire Veterans Home (NHVH),
which has weekly activities that mix their older residents with middle
and high school students in activities including playing board and
trivia games based on U.S. and world history, farming and discussing
The multicultural and international population at Tilton, one of
seven schools the NHVH collaborates with, helps both students and
residents learn about each other's cultures, while learning they're more
alike than they thought.
Exchanges like these are a win-win-win. They're a win for young
people who get extra attention, guidance and support. They're a win for
older vets who enjoy a greater sense of purpose. They're a win for
communities empowered by collaboration, pooling resources and engaging
in cooperative problem solving.
Those community services make shared sites -- facilities where children, youth and older adults receive services -- like Easter Seals' Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center in
Silver Spring, Maryland, invaluable. Through their Little Warrior
Program, the center provides free childcare for children of wounded
soldiers. These young people, whose parents saw trauma first-hand, can
inherit what Dr. Anita Brown called intergenerational post-traumatic stress distorder (iptsd).
The research suggests that anger, anxiety and heightened sense of
vulnerability are some symptoms that children of wounded soldiers are
likely to experience, according to Brown, a clinical psychologist at the
Defense Centers of Excellence.
Easter Seals helps offset these signs early by caring for young
people from six weeks to 13 years old. Older adults play a vital role in
the program reassuring, comforting and caring about the young ones
during these important developmental years. The parents say the children
respond well to the extra support and caring they receive from their
There's something else that comes from these cross generation bonds,
according to the late cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: "If you
associate enough with older people who do enjoy their lives, who are not
stored away in any golden ghettos, you will gain a sense of continuity
and of the possibility for a full life."
Earlier this year, World War II veterans, residents of Chester County, Pennsylvania's Lakeside Assisted Living,
impacted the lives of students at a local elementary school. During the
veteran's visit, the benefits were two-fold: students got additional
context on the war they read about in school books, while veterans felt
valued as they shared their personal histories with a future generation.
At the Southwestern Veterans Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the
vets did the active listening. During the center's Intergenerational
Reading Program, students from Transfiguration School shared their
stories in either one-on-one or small group settings. The program's
goal, like other shared sites, is to enhance all participants' quality
of life by improving attitudes toward elders and share life experiences.
The Memory Project in
Canada takes the intergenerational endeavor to another level. Through
an educational partnership between Historica Canada and the Ontario
Seniors' Secretariat, The Memory Project brings the Veterans of World
War II, the Korean War and peacekeeping missions into school classrooms
and over the Internet.
Veterans Day provides the perfect opportunity to renew our national
promise and stand long for our vets who deserve our respect and a new
day, who make it possible -- as Led Zeppelin sings it -- for our forest,
and future generations, to "echo with laughter."