Memorial Day, held on the last Monday of May every year, is a federal holiday observed in honor of those who have died while serving our country in the armed forces. There are a few misconceptions surrounding this holiday. First of all, it seems to have become all about shopping, picnics, and parties for some people (and especially in the media), as well as the unofficial start of summer, which is not even close to the actual reason for the holiday. Also, many erroneously (but with good intentions) attribute it to veterans or those who are actively serving in the military. Armed Forces Day is the holiday that is set aside for those who are currently serving (and should be more celebrated than it currently is). Veterans Day is to honor those who have served in the past.
Memorial Day is solely for those who died while serving. I think it’s wonderful that each group is remembered. While reading different things to find out more about these holidays, I stumbled across an idea that I wholly support – a new holiday specifically for those who have been seriously/permanently injured as a result of carrying out their duties as soldiers.
I had always heard about people visiting cemeteries and placing flags on the graves of fallen soldiers for Memorial Day. There are other traditions. One is to raise the United States flag fully, then immediately lower it to half-mast until noon; then the flag is to be raised to full staff until the end of the day. There has been the practice of wearing a red poppy on Memorial Day, or even better, purchasing and wearing a Buddy Poppy. The poppy represents the blood shed by our fallen soldiers. This was the idea of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) organization, which also came up with the idea of having veterans make them out of paper – the Buddy Poppy. The money that is collected for these Buddy Poppies allows these veterans to have a little income to make their lives in the hospital a little better and more comfortable, and making them can also serve as therapy for their hands and fingers. There is so much more information about them that really should be more widely publicized.
A moment of silence is a way anyone can commemorate our nation’s deceased military heroes. There are ceremonies held by groups or individuals. Parades have long been a very public and popular way to spend celebrating the day.
I think a meaningful gesture would be to allow those who lost a loved one (who is now being honored today) to have the day off. Spouses and children of the deceased (even more so the newly deceased) really should have this day to spend together, or at least to mourn and honor their husband, wife, mother, father, or sibling.
I have a quote from VFW.org (http://www.vfw.org/community/patriotic-days/) that I feel everyone should read: “Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance. America’s collective consciousness demands that all citizens recall and be aware of the deaths of their fellow countrymen during wartime“.
At the VERY least, you can make a toast to these brave men and women before beginning your celebrations.
Let’s not forget them, nor stop being grateful for their sacrifices.