This American holiday that honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military will be observed on May 30 this year. Originally called, “Decoration Day,” it originated in the years following the Civil War, but didn’t become an official federal holiday until 1971. Today, most of us enjoy a day off work and celebrate the unofficial start of summer by boating, grilling, or snapping up some bargains during Memorial Day sales. But, it’s also important to remember those who have served our country and died for our freedoms.
So, what can you do to honor those you know who served or who are currently serving? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Visit a cemetery: There are more than 130 national cemeteries in the U.S. as well as dozens of state cemeteries where veterans and soldiers are buried. And, while many of these cemeteries are well-maintained, some older graves from wars fought many years ago may not get the attention they deserve. Consider adopting an older grave by laying flowers or a wreath around it. Visiting a veteran’s cemetery with your kids also provides a good educational opportunity to share information about past wars.
Visit a military memorial, museum or monument. There are many military memorials, museums, and monuments throughout the United States. Take a day trip to one near you to learn about our military history or to pay your respects.
Take part in the National Moment of Remembrance: Even if you have plans, try to set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take part in this National event. This observation started in 2000 and calls on Americans to voluntarily and informally take a moment of silence at 3 p.m. to reflect however they wish.
Provide support to living veterans: While Memorial Day is the official day to honor the fallen, there are many living veterans that need assistance all year long. There are many ways to help. For example, volunteer with a veteran organization to make a difference; work with the VA’s volunteer transportation network; or visit a wounded vet at a nearby facility and thank them for their service.
Post a Tribute: Do you have a friend or family member who died during military service? Post a picture and a written tribute to them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Tell your followers what this person and their service meant to you and invite others to join the conversation by honoring their memory in their own words.
As singer, songwriter Bob Dylan once said, “I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.”