We have all seen the meme: "Memorial Day is not National Barbecue Day." For military members, this "holiday" is a hard pill to swallow. Although the spirit of the meme is in good faith, it needs to do more because it misses an opportunity to tell people what to do instead of just having a party.
That's why, in honor of Memorial Day, I want to share three ways that you can move beyond the meme and help your military community.
Memorial Day: VolunteerOf course. Everyone always needs volunteers but where should you go? It is not always easy to know where to get started but once you find a good organization, the volunteer opportunities are endless. Try your local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or American Legion. There is usually one in every town, especially if you are near a military installation. They may be hosting a parade or a get together and need help with the set up or tear down. They may need some help distributing flyers or help getting their party organized. Memorial Day parades are a huge hit but they are also a lot of work. Helping out with organizing the groups who are involved in the parade, advertising the event, and even just going back after the parade is over to clean up will all be appreciated by the parade coordinator.
If there is a cemetery nearby, you can donate your time to place American flags at their headstones. The worst thing that can happen to a fallen military member is to be forgotten. Even if your local cemetery is not a military one, there are sure to be a few sites that could use a little love. Talk to the cemetery groundskeeper to see how many flags you will need and the location of their resting place within the cemetery. The tradition of placing an American flag on every grave is one of the cornerstone pieces of Memorial Day; remembering the fallen seems like the least we can do.
Memorial Day: ParticipateIf you are near a military installation, see what activities they have going on. There may be a ceremony or a luncheon that you could attend. I have seen authors and Gold Star family members speak at Memorial Day events and it has always been a worthwhile and meaningful time. Your military installation also may be doing a parade or outdoor event to recognize and remember the fallen, and those are always a great way to celebrate the lives that were lost.
Memorial Day: Teach Your ChildrenIn order to ensure the next generation knows and understands what Memorial Day is all about, take this time to educate them on the history of American wars and the history of Memorial Day.
Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1967. The traditional observance is to raise the flag quickly to the top of the flag pole and then lower it to half-staff, where it will remain until noon. At noon, the flag is raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day. In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance which is at 3:00 pm on Memorial Day. The American Legion Auxiliary also distributes paper poppies as a fundraiser. Poppies are seen throughout the world as a symbol of remembrance. Finally, there is also the National Memorial Day concert which is a free event on the west lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., if you are not in the area but still want to see the concert, it is typically broadcast live on PBS, NPR, and if you are overseas, the Armed Forces Network.
Whether you have a personal connection to the military or not, observing Memorial Day is an important part of being an American. It is imperative that we never forget those servicemen and women who fought for our country and have given the ultimate sacrifice for us all. Taking the time to get involved in your community's activities on Memorial Day weekend is a great way to show your support for our military and our Gold Star families.