As a former military spouse, showing gratitude on Memorial Day for our service men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country is high on my list of priorities.
Yes, the day is commonly known as the un-official beginning of summer, the end of the school year for many and the day to breakout the Grill Master.
The Difference Between Memorial Day and Veterans Day
Often Memorial Day is confused with Veterans Day which celebrates all service members living and dead.
Memorial Day, which is always the last Monday in May, honors the men and women who died while serving in the military. This is a day set aside to reflect on these Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting and defending the country they deeply loved. Veterans Day, observed every November 11, recognizes everyone who has ever served in the Armed Forces.
To some the distinction seems minute. Celebrating our service members across the board should be embraced and done regularly. I have to admit, it does irk me a bit to see the confusion of the two holidays.
Once you’ve answered the door to two service members and just “know” they have come bearing the news every military spouse prays never gets delivered. The selfish relief that this time it’s not your husband but the sadness and grief as you console a friend, mother, and, now, widow.
Once you’ve witnessed the last roll call and that soldier’s name is called and goes unanswered.
Once you’ve consoled your spouse from afar – knowing nothing you can say or do will ever erase the images they’ve seen or wipe away the survivor’s guilt that they are experiencing.
Until you’ve done those things – it’s difficult to realize why Memorial Day holds such a special place in the hearts of many. Why we respect and honor those that are still here – protecting and serving our country – and spend this day reflecting on the loss, the sacrifice and the honor.
Simple Ways to Show Gratitude
- Participate in the National Moment of Silence at 3 PM local time on Memorial Day. Pause for at least one minute where ever you are. Use this time to remember and honor those who have died in armed service.
- Fly your American flag at half-mast until noon local time. This is done during national days of mourning and days of respect for men and women in armed service
- Many cemeteries need volunteers to place flags on military graves. Contact a local church or city graveyard for information.
- Attend a ceremony at a local VFW, city hall, etc
- Refrain from saying “Happy” Memorial Day. Remember that Memorial Day is a national day of mourning.
We must never forget the reason behind this long weekend. It is to remember, honor and show gratitude to our fallen heroes.
Finally, we do not have to wait for a national holiday to show our gratitude to Service members. Any day is a good day to support Veterans. A heartfelt “thank you” to those who are and have served goes a long way.