For many Americans, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, a time for barbecues with family and friends, and shopping at big sales.
But Memorial Day is so much more than that. It is a day to remember the one million Americans who gave what Abraham Lincoln called “the last full measure of their devotion” to the cause of freedom. It is a day of reverence, to stop our normal activities to thank, appreciate and recognize the ultimate sacrifice made by others so that we might enjoy the privileges of citizenship in this nation.
How do we honor those whose memories we cannot allow to flicker on this solemn occasion? Here are eight suggestions, some of which come from the families of the fallen themselves.
1. Understand That Memorial Day is Not Veterans Day
All those who served are honored on Veterans Day, the date in November marking the armistice that ended WWI. Memorial Day is for those who lost their lives in our behalf. Although it is always nice to thank a veteran for their service, Memorial Day is the day we thank those are no longer with us.
2. Learn the History of Memorial Day
You might be surprised to know that Memorial Day didn’t become a national holiday until 1971. In 1868, “Decoration Day” was established on May 30, “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” Southern states did not recognize this holiday until after WWI, when it was changed to honor American soldiers killed in all wars.
3. Teach Your Children About the Sanctity of Memorial Day
If we shop, our children will think of Memorial Day as a day to shop. If we stop and recognize the men and women who laid down their lives for our country, our children will have that view of Memorial Day. And if we teach them why it’s important to recognize that sacrifice, they will carry on the tradition.
4. Remember a Family
Do you know a family that lost someone to military service? Sending them a note expressing your appreciation and sadness at the loss will make demonstrate that their sacrifice had a purpose.
5. But Avoid Saying “Happy Memorial Day”
Memorial Day is a day of mourning and appreciation, not a day of happiness.
6. Donate to a Veterans Group
Veterans of foreign wars suffer dramatically higher rates of mental illness, alcoholism and drug abuse, physical disability, homelessness, and depression and suicide. They need our ongoing support and aid. Donating to a charity that supports veterans is a great way to honor both those who fought and died, and those who returned home broken.
7. Attend a Memorial Day Commemoration
There are Memorial Day services in nearly every city in America. Gather your family and friends for an impressive demonstration of support for those who served and died, their families, those serving now, and the cause of freedom generally.
8. Or Observe the National Moment of Remembrance
If you can’t get to a Memorial Day service, at least stop whatever you’re doing at 3:00 p.m. local time to observe a “Moment of Remembrance.” This can be done with a solemn moment of silence, a reading of the Gettysburg Address or other inspiring homage to those who died, the playing of Taps, or any other show of respect.
Stuhr Funeral Home, a trusted name in funeral service for more than 150 years, cares for families of those who have lost their lives, whether to military service or not. Stuhr Funeral Home is committed to providing quality arrangements to honor loved ones and family traditions. For more information about funeral services available, visit HenryStuhr.com or call (843) 723-2524.