Memorial Day is observed on every last Monday of May. But if you asked me, every day should be a day spent remembering and honoring our brave brothers and sisters of the United States Armed Forces who sacrificed their lives serving and protecting our beloved country. We’ve heard too many stories of veterans suffering from physical and mental health issues brought about by war. Others struggle with financial hardship, unemployment, and homelessness. While everyone can play a part in making the lives of these heroes and their families better, the very least we can do is show our gratitude and respect not only for the fallen but also for those who lived to tell their tales. Below are 22 small ways we can show our respect on Memorial Day and beyond:
1. Fly an American Flag at Home
There’s no simpler way to show love for the country while honoring those who lost their lives protecting it than by flying the American flag. This powerful symbol of patriotism is a great reminder that we live in the greatest nation on earth and should never forget the heroes who kept it that way.
Remember, you’re flying the flag to express your patriotism and show respect on Memorial Day so it’s essential to handle and display it with care. Here are some tips on how to properly fly the American flag:
- Display the flag in a prominent location where it can be seen clearly. It’s typically flown on a flagpole, but you can also hang it from a wall, balcony, or window.
- When using a flagpole, make sure it’s sturdy and of an appropriate height for the size of the flag. Never let the flag touch the ground.
- Select an appropriately sized flag for the pole or display area. The general guideline is to have a flag that is 1/4 to 1/3 the height of the flagpole.
- When raising the flag, hoist it briskly and lower it slowly and ceremoniously. Avoid letting the flag touch the ground or any other objects.
- On designated days or in times of national mourning, the flag should be flown at half-staff. To do this, hoist the flag to the peak of the pole, then lower it to a position halfway between the top and bottom of the pole.
- If you plan to fly the flag 24 hours a day, it should be properly illuminated during the hours of darkness to ensure it remains visible.
- During severe weather conditions, it is advisable to take down the flag to prevent damage. However, if it becomes wet, make sure to dry it thoroughly before storing or flying it again.
- When taking down the flag, fold it properly in a respectful manner. There are specific techniques or steps on how to fold the American Flag that should be followed.
- Store the flag in a clean and dry place when it is not being flown. Avoid placing it in a location where it can become soiled or damaged.
- When a flag becomes worn, torn, or faded beyond repair, it should be retired in a respectful manner. The preferred method is to burn it in a dignified ceremony. Many veterans’ organizations and scout troops can assist with proper flag disposal.
2. Display the American Flag on Your Car
Aside from your home or workplace, you can also display the national flag in your car, especially during Memorial Day or other American holidays. This can be done either by having a removable decal of the flag on your rear window or bumper. If you’re feeling more creative you could opt for a permanent flag-themed paint job.
3. Hang a Black Ribbon on Your Door or Mailbox
Hanging a black ribbon on your door or mailbox is another simple but meaningful way to commemorate Memorial Day and honor the brave men and women who served our country. The tradition originated during the Civil War when soldiers placed black wreaths over their doors to signify their grief and support for the fallen.
4. Wear Red, White, and Blue
Remember to wear something patriotic on Memorial Day. This could be something as simple as a T-shirt or hat with the colors of the American flag. You can also wear hats, socks, and even shoes that feature the stars and stripes of Old Glory.
5. Wear a Red Poppy, Lapel Pin, or Other Symbols to Honor Those Who Served
The red poppy is a recognized symbol of remembrance for fallen soldiers. Wear a red poppy pin on Memorial Day as a visible display of respect and tribute. In addition to the red poppy, other symbols that represent fallen soldiers and honor those who served in the United States Armed Forces include the POW/MIA flag, which honors the soldiers who weren’t able to return home, and the fallen soldier battle cross, a symbolic representation of a fallen soldier’s final salute.
6. Stop and Pay Your Respects When the National Anthem Plays
Our brave soldiers didn’t only fight for freedom but also defended our right to freedom of speech and expression. Pay your respects when the National Anthem plays as a sign of gratitude for their sacrifices. This could mean saluting or simply pausing whatever you’re doing and silently honoring those who dedicated their lives to serving our country.
7. Join a Memorial Day Parade
Perhaps one of the most fun ways to honor our brave soldiers is to join a Memorial Day. It’s a great opportunity to go out with your family, get some sun, and enjoy the parade. But don’t forget that the holiday is not all fun and games. It’s a time to remember and honor the fallen soldiers of our nation and you can join the parade as a way to pay your respects. This is also a good opportunity to explain to children the meaning or the reason behind the event.
8. Attend Memorial Services
If you want to actively participate in honoring our soldiers, attending a Memorial Day parade and similar festivities is the way to go. But if you prefer a more solemn “celebration,” you can go to a memorial service instead.
Memorial services for fallen soldiers are usually held at the cemetery, local park, church, or community center. The program normally includes the National Anthem, an invocation or prayer, a moment of silence, musical activities, and a wreath-laying ceremony. It’s also common for some people, usually the relatives of fallen soldiers, to give speeches, recite poems or passages, or share their personal stories of those who served.
9. Visit Cemeteries and Memorials
Even if your weekend is full of family fun, make sure you still take time to visit cemeteries or memorials where fallen soldiers are laid to rest. Leave flowers, flags, or other symbols of remembrance at their gravesites or memorials. Spend a moment in quiet reflection and gratitude.
If you can’t bring the flowers yourself, you can still pay your respects to the fallen troops with a donation to Memorial Day Flowers. It’s a national foundation that places a flower on the graves of soldiers. A small donation of $5, for example, honors five soldiers with a red rose in front of their headstones.
10. Observe a Moment of Silence
Join the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. local time by pausing for a minute of silence. Encourage others to join you and spread awareness about this meaningful tribute. Use this time for personal reflection, prayer, or meditation, focusing on the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives for their country.
11. Share Stories of Fallen Soldiers
Since you’re always on Facebook, TikTok, and other social media platforms, you can use these outlets to share stories of fallen soldiers. Highlight their bravery, sacrifices, and the impact they had on their communities. Help keep their memories alive. Just be sure you get your facts right and show respect for the fallen soldiers.
You can also use these posts to bring attention to the plight of veterans as well as the military families who lost a loved one in service. Many of these individuals and families are in need of support, whether financial or emotional. If you have the time and resources, look into ways you can help out and use social media to garner more support for them.
12. Visit Military Exhibits or Museums
Check out local museums or exhibits that focus on military history. It’s good to learn a thing or two about the past, particularly the armed conflicts that the country has experienced or has been involved in over the years. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the heroes from your own hometown or state, as well as troops from other parts of the country. Hopefully, you find a deeper appreciation for our troops after visiting such places.
13. Educate Yourself
Even if you’re stuck at home and can’t visit museums or attend parades or services, you can still show respect on Memorial Day by educating yourself. Read books, visit legitimate websites, watch movies, and listen to podcasts related to military history or the sacrifices of our troops. There’s no shortage of inspiring stories out there that’ll surely leave an impact on you.
If you’re planning to surf the web, be cautious of false information. Stick to reliable sources and take time to verify facts before sharing them on social media. And while you’re online, research the stories and experiences of veterans after the war.
Be prepared to learn about the harsh reality they faced as they struggled to reintegrate themselves into civilian life. This should give you a better appreciation of the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families while also learning about how you can help these heroes.
14. Teach Children About Memorial Day
Everything you know or learn about Memorial Day should be shared with the little ones. It’s a good idea to let children know about the significance of the event so that they can grow up with a sense of respect for the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives to protect our country. You can use art projects, stories, movies, and other fun activities to teach kids about Memorial Day. Involve them in age-appropriate discussions. Let them ask questions and encourage them to come up with ideas on how they can pay tribute to fallen soldiers.
15. Put Together Care Packages for Soldiers
If you have family or friends in the service, you probably send them care packages regularly. Sadly, there are some soldiers who rarely or don’t get anything at all from back home. As a way to express your gratitude, why don’t you put together some care packages for these brave but lonely souls?
You can buy the contents yourself or ask other people to donate money or items for the care packages. That way, you can reach out to more soldiers.
Get creative with your gifts! Include items like personalized notes, snacks, books, magazines, toiletries, entertainment stuff, etc. Just make sure that whatever you send is allowed by their unit guidelines and approved by the US Department of Defense.
16. Volunteer at a Veterans’ Organization
Reach out to local veterans’ organizations and offer your time and skills as a volunteer. Help with events, fundraising, or providing support to veterans and their families. Your assistance shows your commitment to honoring their sacrifices.
17. Support Gold Star Families
Gold Star Families are those who have lost a loved one in military service. Reach out to offer support and assistance to these families. Sometimes, all they need is someone to listen to them talk about their loved one.
18. Help Build a Home for a Veteran
According to the National Association of American Veterans, Inc., there are 40,401 homeless veterans in the United States in 2023. Pine Street Inn, the largest homeless shelter in New England, estimated that around 33% of all homeless persons in the country are veterans. Based on these figures, the nation has failed these heroes who fought for our freedoms while we were safe at home.
You can help out by donating to organizations like Building Homes for Heroes, Operation Finally Home, Habitat for Humanity Veteran Program, and Homes for Our Troops. These organizations specialize in building or improving homes as well as providing assistance to veterans so that they can have a place to call their own.
19. Visit Veteran-Owned Businesses
If you’re planning on eating out or shopping on Memorial Day, consider visiting businesses owned and operated by veterans or military families. Ask around if there are some in your community. You can also join veteran-owned business directories where many veterans sign up to promote their small businesses. Show your support by buying from these businesses. Not only will you be helping veterans, but you’ll also be helping the local economy.
20. Start a Fundraiser for a Veteran in Need
If you know a veteran who could use some help, you can set up a fundraising campaign. It can be something as simple as a donation jar in a local store or restaurant. Or you can launch your fundraiser online by creating a website, sharing it on social media, and encouraging people to donate. You can also organize events like bake sales, car washes, concerts, etc. for additional donations.
Many veterans are struggling with mounting medical bills, financial difficulties, or loss of employment due to service-related injuries. Your donations may give them a second chance to build back their lives. Every bit of help counts!
21. Support Military Charities
Organizing your own fundraising event can be taxing. If you don’t have the time and resources for such charitable activities, you can donate to established military charities instead. These organizations provide financial, emotional, and medical assistance to veterans in need. Check out the Armed Services YMCA, Operation Homefront, Wounded Warrior Project, and other reputable military charities or organizations that support veterans, active-duty personnel, and their families. Your contribution can provide vital assistance and support to those in need.
22. Thank a Veteran
All these are great ways to express appreciation and show respect on Memorial Day, but nothing beats simply saying “thank you” to a veteran. Seek out veterans in your community and express your gratitude for their service. Offer a sincere “thank you” to those who have served or are currently serving in the military. Your appreciation can make a significant impact.
You can also visit veterans’ hospitals or reach out to one of your local military organizations and thank the men and women who served in our nation’s armed forces. As for those still in the service and stationed in other countries, you can write them heartfelt thank-you letters. Express your appreciation, share your thoughts, and acknowledge their sacrifices. Your words can provide comfort and encouragement.
Memorial Day serves as a powerful reminder to honor and remember the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country. While observing this day, let us also extend our respect and gratitude to the living veterans and their families. From flying the American flag with care to wearing patriotic symbols, from participating in memorial services to educating ourselves and others about the sacrifices made, there are numerous ways to show respect on Memorial Day and beyond. Whether it’s a simple “thank you” or a heartfelt letter, let us take the time to express our appreciation and ensure that the memory of these heroes lives on. Together, we can make a difference and uphold the values they fought to protect. Check out Gentleman Pirate Club for more activities to do on Memorial Day and similar occasions.
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