You're so focused on unplugging and decompressing over the next few days that an appointment may have slipped your mind.
3pm on Memorial Day, remember?
Sure, Memorial Day weekend is when America pretends that summer has started. And if you're like 80% of us, that's where the meaning of the three-day holiday begins and ends.
Which is why, in 2000, Congress passed The National Moment of Remembrance Act, as an added way of honoring America's fallen heroes. For one minute on Memorial Day, we're all stopping everything to pay our respects to the men and women who died in service of our country, especially those who died in battle. The time of 3pm was chosen because it's likely when Americans are most enjoying the freedom made possible by those who died in service of their country.
Memorial Day was originally established as Decoration Day in 1868, as a way to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War. Never before had so many American soldiers died in battle, and as a result national cemeteries began to be formed. On the first Decoration Day, 5,000 participants gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to decorate the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. Southern states refused to acknowledge the day, choosing to honor their dead on separate days until after World War 1, when Memorial Day changed from honoring those who died during the Civil War to those fallen in any war.
But as the true meaning of Memorial Day has become obscured over time, shrouded in the haze of BBQ smoke, some were moved to institute a moment of silence. Allegedly, the idea for the moment came when children touring Washington D.C. were asked about the meaning of Memorial Day and responded, "That's the day the pool opens."
So the National Moment of Remembrance Act calls us to stop and remember. As noted by the Uniformed Services Benefit Association, here's what will happen at 3pm on Monday in observance of the National Moment of Remembrance: Trains will blow their whistles. Almost 500,000 Major League Baseball fans will pause for a moment of silence. Cars will drive with their headlights on. Americans everywhere will wave flags. "Taps" will play throughout the nation.
Beyond that one moment at 3pm, how can we honor the true significance of Memorial Day? The Memorial Day Foundation, an organization formed to increase awareness and respect for Memorial Day, recommends a few gestures of respect:
- Wear a Memorial Day Button from the first of May until Memorial Day.
- Visit cemeteries and place flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
- Fly the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon. Memorial Day is a day of "National Mourning."
- Attend religious services of your choice.
- Visit memorials.
- Renew a pledge to aid the widows, and orphans of our fallen dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.
Honor and Respect
Visit a local Veteran's cemetery. Almost every community has some sort of a war memorial. Click here to find a list of national cemeteries throughout the country, many which will be holding ceremonies on Monday.
Visit and Pay Tribute
Take cookies, books, or movies to a nearby Veteran's hospital.
Celebrate with a Parade
Go to a Memorial Day parade. To find one near you visit vetfriends.com. Or watch the National Memorial Day Parade on television.
This link provides kids an online scavenger hunt that helps them learn about the history of Memorial Day.
Recognize our Heroes
Teach your children about medals of honor. You can print a Medal of Honor coloring book and learn the history behind our brave Soldiers.
Educate with History
Watch a movie and learn some history about famous battles of the past. The History Channel and The Military Channel have many shows that might fit this bill.
Create with Crafts
Visit enchantedlearning.com and find Memorial Day coloring pages, craft projects, word searches, quizzes and more.
Make a Soldier's Day
Have your children create a card or picture to be sent overseas to a soldier currently at war.
One way to honor the fallen is to make sure that we take care of those who remain behind. I hold a great deal of respect for companies such as Prudential, Starbucks and Merck that have made it a business priority to hire veterans, and the hundreds of nonprofits that make it their mission to help veterans and their families, such as Easter Seals Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, an organization led by the remarkable Col. David Sutherland that's changing the conversation about veterans and military families to highlight their potential and create life-changing opportunities. Veterans have so much to bring to the corporate world and to our communities in general, and it is our solemn duty to support them in every way that we can.
This Memorial Day, stop what you're doing at 3pm on Monday, at the very least, remember the fallen, and consider the words of General John Logan, General Order No. 11, on May 5, 1868:
"We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or the coming generations, that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided Republic. If other eyes grow dull, and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remains to us."
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