Happy Memorial Day weekend! Do you have your big barbecue planned? Great! So now what are you doing to celebrate the actual holiday?
America, please don't disappoint me. You know why most of us have Monday off, don't you? So we can actually honor those who have died in all American wars? The brave who gave their lives so that we may live in the land of the free?
Feel free to scarf down a few burgers and hoist a few beers, but do me a favor and add at least one of these real Memorial Day traditions to the list:
1. Visit a veterans' home. After the Civil War, the US found itself with a large number of indigent and disabled veterans who couldn't care for themselves or go back to work. The first veterans home was opened in 1864, and since dozens have sprung up to give back to our vets. It's the least the nation can do, but we as citizens can do more. Stop in, visit them! Chat with a vet for an hour or two, bring the kids to say hello, drop off a big plate of fresh baked cookies. Do something to let them know they are not forgotten.
2. Visit the local veterans cemetery. Some graves are well-maintained by family members, but when there are no living relatives, that chore falls on the shoulders of local veterans groups. Lend a hand by bringing some flowers and helping to beautify a few of the less cared for graves.
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3. Attend a parade. This one's pretty easy, and a big hit with the kids, and it will give the veterans marching a big smile.
4. Attend a memorial service. Many veterans groups plan these events for the holiday, and they never say no to more participants.
5. Raise your flag. Some times showing your thanks can be as simple as flying Old Glory at your house. She should remain at half mast until noon, as per tradition.
6. Honor the National Moment of Remembrance. In 2000, Congress addressed the fact that many Americans simply use Memorial Day as a day to eat burgers. They created the National Moment to make sure our troops are honored. At 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, every American is asked to pause for just one minute to honor the fallen.
7. Hoist a POW/MIA flag. According to the Department of Defense, more than 83,000 Americans are missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War. Flying the POW/MIA flag reminds people of their sacrifice and their families' too.
8. Visit a battlefield. Memorial Day owes its roots to the Civil War, and there are numerous sites up and down the East Coast where soldiers laid down their lives for us.
9. Watch/Listen to the National Memorial Day Concert. Broadcast on PBS and NPR, this concert on the west lawn of the United States Capitol includes music but also tributes to the men and women who gave their lives for their country.
10. Share a photo of your beloved fallen soldier/airman/etc. on Facebook or Instagram. It's a day about remembering after all, so share his (or her) story!
What are you doing to truly honor the meaning of Memorial Day?
Image by Jeanne Sager