By Ashly Moore Sheldon • May 27, 2020
As the unofficial kickoff to summer, Memorial Day is often celebrated with BBQs and beers and fun in the sun. But, as we all know, the significance of this holiday is actually much deeper and more important than that. It has been designated as a day to honor and mourn U.S. military personnel who have died in service to our country. In that spirit, we present a diverse collection of soldier stories for all ages.
This collection of picture books can give uninitiated kids a peek into military life. And for children who have a family member serving, the stories may inspire pride and help them to know they are not alone.
Year of the Jungle
A young child when her father served in the Vietnam War, Suzanne Collins learned early about the importance of military service. This autobiographical picture book shares her story of waiting for postcards from her soldier dad.
Postcards From a War
This story by Vanita Oelschlager, tells the story of a boy whose mother has just been deployed overseas. He is living with his grandfather, who explains that he was about the same age when his own father served in WWII.
H is for Honor
The son of a career officer, author Devin Scillian decodes military vocabulary and lays out the branches of the Armed Forces in this patriotic tribute. Kids will get a sense of the courage and commitment shown by military families.
Written by Melinda Hardin and illustrated by Bryan Langdo, this picture book depicts kids who have moms serving in the military and doing heroic jobs like constructing buildings, flying planes, and driving tanks. There’s a dad version too!
For young people on the cusp of adulthood, stories of military service can be particularly inspiring as they ponder their futures. With aspects of adventure, courage, and the pursuit of a greater purpose, these aspirational tales will leave youthful readers evaluating their own life goals.
A Soldier’s Secret
This novel by bestselling author Marissa Moss is based the true story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, who disguised herself as a man and fought in the Civil War. Her adventures include serving as a spy for the Union Army and escaping capture from the Confederates.
When Private Matt Duffy wakes up in an Iraq army hospital, he’s been honored with a Purple Heart. But he doesn’t fully remember the events before his injury and he has a nagging feeling that he’s done something wrong. Patricia McCormick’s compelling novel explores the complex brutality of life in a war zone.
Code Name Verity
Set in Nazi-occupied France, this WWII tale from Elizabeth Wein is hard to describe without giving too much away. A young British woman has been captured by the Gestapo after surviving the crash of a spy plane piloted by her best friend. Her intricate confessions gradually reveal her thrilling story.
This novel by Walter Dean Myers takes place in the trenches of the Vietnam War. After his dream of attending college falls through, Harlem teenager Perry volunteers for the service. As he grapples with the horror of warfare, he begins to question the reasons behind the conflict and his place in it.
Since 1973, when the draft was eliminated and military service became voluntary, many Americans have become detached from the activities of the armed forces. Memorial Day serves as an opportunity to remember and honor all of those who have dedicated themselves to this service, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice. These books offer a variety of true, firsthand narratives from men and women who have served our country in times of war.
During World War II, the U.S. Marines turned to its Navajo recruits to develop and implement a secret military language. They were successful in creating the only unbroken code in modern warfare. This is the memoir from one of those soldiers, Chester Nez.
Journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon uses on-the-ground reporting and a deep understanding of the complexities of war to tell the story of a unit of women handpicked from the Army to serve in a highly specialized role in Afghanistan operations.
The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
In a work of profound political and historical significance, Grant offers rich insights into the U.S. war with Mexico and the Civil War. Praised for his lean, decisive writing style, the renowned military leader explains how these events tested America's democracy.
Eat the Apple
Matt Young’s inventive Iraq War memoir presents a fascinating portrait of the complicated division of self that military service demands. With self-effacing humor, he employs cartoons, lists, prose poetry, and a unique narrative approach to effectively convey the chaos and complexity of war.
This extraordinary anthology curated by Andrew Carroll compiles letters from the front lines of wars including: The Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and others. The collection offers dramatic eyewitness accounts from a diverse set of voices including marines, airmen, sailors, nurses, journalists, spies, and chaplains, as well as letters from legendary figures like Clara Barton, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ernie Pyle.
We are proud to honor the many men and women who serve our country in military service, particularly those who gave their lives. We hope you’ll take a moment to consider the tremendous commitment and bravery of the armed forces with some of these powerful stories.