Ah, Memorial Day! The first long weekend of summer, when millions of Americans celebrate with backyard parties, beach trips, parades and general revelry. But is that what Memorial Day is really about? In truth, this is a holiday meant for remembrance. It’s a somber occasion, thinking about those who have lost their lives for our country, and the families they left behind. For many families who have lost a loved one who was serving in the military, the celebrations on Memorial Day can be a painful reminder of loss.
How do we honor the true meaning of Memorial Day? By acknowledging that real people, with hopes, dreams, and lives, fought and died for our freedoms. The picnics and parades are a wonderful way to celebrate those hard-won freedoms, but there must be a moment when the celebratory mood turns solemn, and we remember what’s been lost. The “National Moment of Remembrance” Resolution, passed in 2000, is meant to promote exactly that: At 3 p.m. local time, all Americans are called to voluntarily observe a moment of remembrance, either taking a moment of silence or listening to “Taps”. But beyond this token moment of respect, what can you do this Memorial Day to truly honor the intent of this day?
• Ask a veteran about friends who were lost. Do you know someone who has survived combat? Talk to that person about their experience and the people who didn’t make it out alive. Ask open ended questions, taking time to truly listen to the story and understand the experience.
• Add a tradition of remembrance into your family’s holiday. Maybe it’s a moment of silence, or singing the national anthem, or talking about soldiers and their sacrifices. Find something that will be meaningful for your family, and incorporate it into your Memorial Day traditions.
• Visit a military cemetery. A military cemetery is a good place for reflection, and the monuments can be a powerful reminder of the overwhelming sacrifices that have been made. If you have a loved one buried there, decorate his or her grave. If not, you might want to bring flags or flowers to decorate the graves of those whose families haven’t done so.
• Wear a poppy. Since just after World War I, poppies have been worn to symbolically honor those who died in service of our country. Sometimes, you can find crepe paper poppies sold by veterans’ charities, in order to raise money. If you can’t, creating these paper poppies at home with your children might be a great way to teach them what Memorial Day is all about.
• Support military families. Military families endure great hardship in support of our nation, so the least we can do is give back some of that support. If you know a family whose loved one is deployed, invite them to join your Memorial Day gathering. If you know someone who has lost a loved one in combat, provide a listening ear. If you live in a community with military families, show your support in a tangible way, by offering to babysit or inviting them to dinner. If you don’t have the opportunity to personally help military families, do so by donating to charities that offer support.
We deeply respect and appreciate the sacrifices made by our nation’s military members and their families. That’s why we work especially hard to honor veterans, working with their families to ensure that they receive the full honors to which they are entitled. For more information on our services, and how to plan a life-honoring tribute that memorializes the service of an American hero, contact us or stop by for more information. In the meantime, we wish you a meaningful Memorial Day.