Summertime is about to start. That is what most of us seem to think when we approach the Memorial Day weekend which always occurs on the last Monday in May. The day was established originally known as Decoration Day a time to remember those who died while in military service. The tradition started in the aftermath of the Civil War and has now expanded to include all wars where Americans have fought. The date often moved around but in 1971 it became a federal law to observe this holiday on the last Monday in May. It is a time of remembrance for all Americans who have lost their lives in battle.
As I shared earlier, it seems that Memorial Day may have lost some of its meaning, with many of us viewing it as an opportunity to get away on a three day weekend or, in my humble opinion and far worse, to find good shopping sales.
But there are some things you can do to change this that are relatively easy. First, participate in the National Moment of Remembrance. It is one minute of silence that occurs at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day in honor of remembering and honoring those who have lost their lives in service to the Unites States of America. This is a way to put the "memory" back into Memorial Day.
Annually, in Washington DC, the national concert takes place on the eve of Memorial Day, hosted by Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise. Both of these men have committed their time year after year on this holiday to giving back via hosting this concert. Joe supports the Act Today for Military Families which focuses on helping military families who have children affected by autism. Gary has started a charitable foundation to raise awareness and money to honor those who have served our country and are in need. Check it out as well as the Memorial Day Concert broadcasted on PBS. Take time to watch it this weekend or set your DVR so you can watch it in the future.
While I have never seen a statistic about this, my guess is that the majority of Americans have been touched or affected by someone who has served. In most of our families and neighborhoods, we all know someone who has served either in the recent conflicts of Iraq and Afghanistan or in past conflicts and wars such as Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea or World War II.
Memorial Day is an outstanding opportunity to make a difference to those who have served our country in military uniform or to remember those who have given the ultimately sacrifice in serving their country. Here are five (5) recommendations and tips on easy ways to Make A Difference (M.A.D.):
1. Visit a cemetery and read the headstones of those who have died for our freedom; think about what their sacrifice means to you!
2. Attend the Memorial Day activities in your community ... most have a parade or some sort of commemoration; take the young people in your life with you to begin passing on the importance of this holiday.
3. Fly the American flag, raising it briskly to full staff first then lowering it to half staff until noon; then again raising it high
4. Visit a VA Hospital or senior center where they are veterans; listen to their stories
5. Make a charitable donation to a nonprofit doing work with veterans. I strongly recommend the Wounded Warrior Project, Operation Homefront, or the Gary Sinise Foundation
Bonus tip: Take time to write a letter or send a package to a veteran who is serving or take a veteran with you to the activities you attend on Memorial Day such as a parade or picnic.
Serving in our military is a great honor but comes with much sacrifice for both the soldier and the family. Freedom is a hard fought battle that occurs on daily basis. Honor our military men and women, as well as their families by honoring and remembering those who have gone before to serve.
I discovered what I believe is a little known fact: more than one million Americans have given their lives in service to this country! Let's make this Memorial Day in 2012 a time to remember them. Do something for our military personnel or to honor and remember those who have served. Remember, by doing any of the recommendations in this blog, you will join Joe Mantegna, Gary Sinise and thousands of others who definitely want to be M.A.D. (Making A Difference)! Are you M.A.D. today?
Happy Memorial Day!