I had my first visit to a cemetery when I was 7, to bury my best friend, my companion, my Grandfather. Even then I remember looking at the headstones wondering about the stories of the men and women laid to rest there.
It only took 15 minutes for my 4.5 year old to become board and start with the "I'm hungry. I'm thirsty. I'm cold. I'm hot. I want to go home." I closed my eyes counting to 10 to restore my patience when it occurred to me; he had no idea why we were in the cemetery and what we were doing. I knelt down in front of my son, "Do you know why we are here?" He shook his head no, so I explained.
"Memorial day is a day of remembrance of those who fought in our Armed Forces to keep us safe. By placing flags at their graves we are saying, 'I remember what you did for me.' We are showing them respect. We are showing them we care." His eyes widened as he looked over the cemetery at all the flags that had already been placed. He looked up at me in earnest and said, "I want to help. I need to say thank you."
After the explanation of our purpose, he was focused, looking for any sign on a head stone that indicated the person resting there was in the Armed Forces. There was no more complaining or whining; only a single minded focus to say thank you to the hundreds of men who fought for our Country.
This goes to show even a mere child can "get it." I encourage you to take the time to explain it to them. Visit a cemetery. Let them see the flags proudly flapping in the wind. Let the children say Thank You. Let them see YOU say Thank You.