We look forward to Memorial Day as a three-day weekend that kicks off summer. Most of us enjoy days off work filled with sunshine, barbeques, and outdoor activities.
When we pause, we remember it’s about more. It’s really a holiday about honoring men and women who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy.
I’m as guilty as the next person in not giving true attention to Memorial Day. But as I get older, I’m determined not to take things so much for granted—so this May 25th, I’m giving it more than lip service and a passing nod to the news stories. That begins with this blog: sharing with you how the holiday came to be, and what we can do to commemorate the day.
Memorial Day, started after the Civil War, was first called “Decoration Day.” Originally designed to honor soldiers who died in the war between the North and South, it expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any war or military action.
Taking time to attend a Memorial Day parade is one small way to give veterans the recognition they deserve. It offers a chance to talk with any young kids about family members or friends who served in the military, and to connect with what the holiday means. If there’s no parade in your area, you can watch the National Memorial Day Parade on TV.
At 3 p.m. local time on May 25, you can observe the National Moment of Remembrance, for one minute.
Share a family story: Go to the Hometown Heroes website and post a photograph and the basic information about your veteran’s service record (it’s free). They want your stories, and are creating a searchable database of military veterans.
More ways to honor veterans:
- Upload an image of the American flag on your Twitter and/or Facebook profile
- Place flowers on the gravestone of a veteran
- Fly your flag at half-staff until noon and/or fly the POW/MIA flag
- Write a thank you letter to a veteran or a current member of the armed forces and send it to A Million Thanks
- Visit a military museum, memorial or historic site
Have you heard of the Education Center they’re building at the Wall? Watch this short video to learn about what they’re doing.
The Center will honor the legacy of military service and make sure future generations do not forget what fallen soldiers of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have done for us. It will share hundreds of thousands of objects left at the Vietnam Wall, and include photos of more than 58,000 people who gave their lives during the Vietnam War. It’s a very tangible way to honor veterans: give to the Education Center.
Returning service men and women face many challenges. We know re-connecting, transitioning and rebuilding their lives is not just a step-back-into-it task. They often have physical and mental battle scars—and need housing, employment, health care and mental health services.
Government programs are helping, but it also takes nonprofit organizations to provide all the services they need. So this Memorial Day, consider making a donation to provide the care, support and assistance veterans need as another way to honor their sacrifices.
– Candy Culver