To some, Memorial Day is just another day off work. It is a federal holiday when the banks and post offices are closed. To others, it may be good sales at the local department stores, the Indianapolis 500 on television, and barbecues on the patio. Or perhaps Memorial Day is the day for parades down city streets, and firework displays at dusk.
But Memorial Day is more than just a leisurely day to spend playing Frisbee, cooking hot dogs on the grill, or setting off fireworks. It’s more than cheaper prices at the mall, or a day to sleep late.
It’s a day to remember and honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States military.
Photo by Remember | Creative Commons Public Domain
Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, originated after the Civil War. It was a day to commemorate the service and death of the Union and Confederate soldiers by placing flowers on the graves of the fallen.
Twenty-seven states participated in the first Memorial Day ceremony on May 30, 1868. The majority of the ceremonies were sponsored by women’s groups, such as the Ladies Memorial Association or the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Over the next few years, Decoration Day ceremonies grew to include parades and battle re-enactments. War veterans gathered at cemeteries and national parks, and dignitaries gave speeches.
By the 20th century, Memorial Day grew to include those who gave their lives from all wars, not just the Civil War.
Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you: Jesus Christ and the American Soldier. One died for your Soul and the other for your Freedom. – author is unknown.
How To Celebrate Memorial Day
It is not necessary to give up your fun activities on Memorial Day. But please do take the time to honor our fallen heroes sometime over the holiday weekend. Here are some great ideas on how to celebrate Memorial Day:
- Attend a Memorial Day ceremony. All across the nation, Memorial Day ceremonies are held at cemeteries and Veterans Parks. Many of these are held on Saturdays to make it easier for you to attend. Take the time to experience one of these ceremonies. If you aren’t patriotic beforehand, you will be before it is over!
- Visit a local veterans cemetery. Some of these cemeteries will have organized ceremonies, but for those that don’t, consider placing flowers and flags at the grave sites. Many veterans – like my husband – are laid to rest miles away from their loved ones. I would be honored if you took the time to place flowers on his grave, and I’m certain family members of other veterans feel the same.
- Visit a memorial museum or monument. While there are a great many of these in Washington, D.C., you’ll find others across the United States – and world. These monuments, whether simple or large, will touch your heart and soul, and definitely make you proud to be an American!
- Donate to a Veterans charity. There are many organizations dedicated to veterans, and they welcome not only donations, but your time. My favorites include: Wounded Warriors Project, Disabled American Veterans, USO, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
- Observe the National Moment of Silence. At 3:00 pm local time, take a moment to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for your freedom.
- Fly a US flag to show your patriotism. The best American flag is made by Annin. Read the review here.
- Thank a veteran. It’s such a simple gesture, easy to do, and doesn’t cost you a cent. It will be appreciated much more than anything else you do!
On the morning of Memorial Day, the United States flag is raised quickly to the top of the flag pole, and then slowly lowered to half-mast. It stays in that position until noon, after which it is returned to the top of the pole.
The significance of the flag lowering and raising? Lowering the flag to half-mast is to honor those fallen veterans who gave their lives for United States. The re-raising of the flag is to signify that their lives were not lost in vain, and their memories & sacrifice will be carried on by those who continue to fight in their place.
If you cannot celebrate Memorial Day in any other way, take the time to watch this video entitled “Some Gave All”. It says it all!
- In Memory Day
The “In Memory Day” event in Washington DC, that honors the service of those Vietnam Veterans who died after they left service, but are not eligible to have their names inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
- DFW National Cemetery
Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery holds an exceptional Memorial Day ceremony. A great place to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom!
- Annin’s United States Flag
The best United States Flag to fly on Memorial Day
- Veterans Day Greeting Cards
Send one of these cards to thank a military veteran on Veterans Day.. or any day!
This article is dedicated to my late husband, who served as an Airborne Ranger in the 1st Cavalry, Air Mobile, in Vietnam.
He passed away as a result of Agent Orange exposure on June 15, 2010, at the too-early age of 58.
Thank you for your service. I will never forget!
What Do You Do On Memorial Day?
Memorial Day is a special holiday to me. As I come from a military family, it was instilled in me from an early age what Memorial Day is all about.
Each Memorial Day, I invite family and veteran friends to my house for a barbecue and celebration. My flags sit at half-mast until noon in memory of our veterans. We take a group picture under the lowered flags, pause for a moment to remember why we are there, then raise the flags in their honor of those lost.