by Katie Julius

[Editor’s Note: This the first in a series of unit study topics we will be sharing over the course of the summer. Whether you take a few weeks, few months, or no break at all, we hope you find these resources helpful in your homeschool.]

Many of us are probably familiar with at least one or two branches of the military. We may have heard about some of the more well-known battles throughout our history. We may even know a family or two who serves to protect our country and our freedom. This month, we will take a deeper dive into the United States military, its six branches, history, traditions, and the people who have sacrificed so much (some having given their lives) for their country.

The Branches of the Military

Perhaps the most logical place to start is exploring the six (yes, six) branches of the U.S. military: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Space Force. You can also add in the National Guard (and find out how they are different from the others). Learn about what they do, the responsibilities they have, the different jobs that are available to those who serve. You can look at the different uniforms – not just between branches, but within each branch and when they wear each uniform. Let your kids become fashion designers and design their own uniforms for a branch of their choice, taking into consideration the jobs that they must perform while wearing them and the environments they work in. When you are looking at their uniforms, you can also find out more about their insignia, ranks, awards, and official seals. All of these details can be found on the official pages linked above or by doing a search through your preferred Internet search engine.

War Memorials & National Cemeteries

Take a virtual field trip to some of the war memorials in Washington D.C. including (but certainly not limited to): the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, World War 1 Memorial, World War II Memorial, and the Marine Corps Memorial. If you have a war or veterans memorial in your city or town or one nearby, plan a visit. Learn about national cemeteries such as Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Find out about those who are assigned to Guard the tomb and the meaning behind each element of their routine. Contact your local cemetery to find out if they have any special services or ways to honor veterans buried there and how you can participate.

Basic Training Boot Camp

Training is essential for every recruit, no matter the branch he or she signs up to join. Recruits typically go through rigorous physical training when they first join, sometimes known as “boot camp” or “basic training.” Many of these exercises can be done or adapted as you plan your own Basic Training day with a few families or maybe even your whole co-op or homeschool community. Perhaps there is a family in your group who has a service member that would be willing to lead this type of activity.

Military Holidays

Do you know the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day? How about Armed Forces Day? Explore the history of these holidays, when they are held, and how they are celebrated in your community. Plan to participate in any ceremonies that may be near you.

Music in the Military

Though it may not come to mind right away, music is an important part of the military. Each branch of the military has a band that performs for a variety of purposes. Listen to the hymns of each branch; “The Army Goes Rolling On” (Army), “Anchor’s Away” (Navy), “Marine Hymn” (Marines), “The U.S. Air Force” (Air Force), “Semper Paratus” (Coast Guard), and “Semper Supra” (Space Force) They are all included in the Armed Forces Medley, which is often used to recognize veterans who served in each branch as they rise when the hymn of their branch is played. What is “Taps”? When is it played? If you play an instrument, learn how to play this song.

Mapping the Military

The battles that have been fought by our military have taken place all over the globe – from the wars during the colonial period and the Civil War within the boundaries of our own country to a number of countries around the world. Research some of the most pivotal battles that our military has been involved in. On a world map, find where they occurred and mark them to see where our military has been most active.

Military Museums

One way to learn a lot about the military is to visit a military museum. They will often have a variety of uniforms, vehicles (think planes, tanks, submarines, ships, and more), and historical artifacts on display. But, perhaps the most valuable part of these museums are the docents, most of whom are veterans who love to share their stories about their service, history of the US military, and the important role they serve.

Interview a Veteran

If you aren’t able to find a museum to visit, find someone who served in the military and interview him or her. If kids are old enough, brainstorm the questions in advance and then write a report about this person. If you don’t have someone to interview, research well-known military “heroes” (either modern day or from our country’s history).

However you choose to study and learn about the United States military, we encourage you to remember the thousands of men and women (and their families) who have served in each of its branches, sacrificing so much, so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we do today. Thank a veteran. Honor a service member. Pray for them and their families. “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.” Psalm 27:3 (NIV)