The official start of summer, Memorial Day is a time when families and friends come together to share good times, a meal, camaraderie and the hope for a great season to come. Despite its timing, the purpose of Memorial Day is, of course, quite different.
Three years after the Civil War ended, Memorial Day’s first, fledgling observances began. At that time, this significant date was known as Decoration Day, and observed through the simple act of placing flowers on the graves of America’s fallen heroes. May 30 was chosen for these commemorative acts because so many flowers were readily available in abundance at that time of year. The past decade has brought an escalation in the number of America’s fallen heroes as well as their mourners, with no communities untouched. Families can preserve the sanctity of this date while maintaining hope for the future and joy in the present. No matter what state you call home, there are many ways to mark the day.
The National Moment of Remembrance
Most people are not even aware that 3 p.m. local time marks a moment of silence in commemoration of America’s fallen heroes and their families, and to do as an act of national unity. The National Moment of Remembrance Act was founded by Carmella LaSpada and signed into law by Congress in 2000, in an effort to encourage Americans to give something back to our country. Consider pausing the party and rallying family and friends to participate in the National Moment of Remembrance in unison, and to collectively share thoughts, recollections and memories of individuals they know who have served.
Memorial Day Parades
Thousands of local, neighborhood-oriented parades take place nationwide on Memorial Day. These typically include patriotic organizations, marching bands and the Veterans of past and current wars. Everyone loves the flag-waving fanfare of an uplifting parade, but these community celebrations provide so much more than just rousing music and baton-twirling teens. Memorial Day parades also give us the opportunity to shake the hands of our Veterans and acknowledge the sacrifice of their fallen comrades in arms.
Remember Our Military Families
The parents, spouses and children of military personnel who never returned experience this day with a mixture of sadness and pride. Their sacrifice continues and should be acknowledged. Reach out to the families of the fallen in your community with a simple phone call or card, letting them know you share their feelings and are thinking of them.
Visit a Historic Landmark
An educational day trip to a local, historical monument or a family vacation to a location of note, such as Arlington National Cemetery, can help solidify understanding of our nation’s history and the individuals who played a part in it. Consider visiting one of the many spots claiming to be the first to celebrate Memorial Day. These include Waterloo, N.Y.; Richmond, Va.; and Macon, Ga.
Place a Flower Or Flag
Simple acts are often the most poignant. Acknowledge Memorial Day’s roots, as well as the many who have died for our country, by visiting a cemetery and placing flowers on the graves of those who sacrificed their all for us.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.