Remembering the Cost of Freedom
This month we have the opportunity to celebrate Memorial Day in honor of all casualties of every armed conflict the United States has taken part in. All too often, however, we lose sight of the meaning of Memorial Day in favor of outdoor BBQs, the long weekend, and family trips. All of us can stand to pay greater attention to the day set aside to remember those who have fallen so we can live in peace. But how can we celebrate Memorial Day and help ourselves, our peers, and our children remember our history? Here are some ideas.
Observe the National Moment of Remembrance
Whatever activity you may be doing on Memorial Day, consider taking the time at 3pm to conduct a moment of silence in honor of our fallen heroes. Also, consider taking the time to talk to your family or guests before and/or after the moment of silence about the importance of giving back to your country and remembering the lessons learned from history. Prepare a few words about a relative, ancestor, or friend who has served in the armed forces, and take the time to talk about what makes America such a special place and how we can honor the memories of the fallen and continue making America better.
Visit A Memorial
Washington D.C. is one big pack of sardines on Memorial Day, but it can still be very worth it to go visit the many memorials in D.C. The Memorial Day weekend I spent in Washington D.C. with my wife was easily the most memorable Memorial Day I’ve ever had. It was very moving to see veterans in uniform paying their respects to their fallen comrades, and humbling to see the seemingly unending list of names that comprises the Vietnam War memorial. Seeing a one-legged veteran bend down to hug another veteran in a wheelchair is a powerful memory in my mind.
Washington D.C. is certainly not the only place with memorials to our fallen soldiers, however, and chances are that there is at least one memorial within driving distance of where you live. Consider going to a memorial sometime over the weekend and explain to your children the meaning of Memorial Day and why we celebrate it. Don’t let politics get in the way of patriotism, and use Memorial Day as a chance to rise above any petty political differences.
Visit a Cemetery and Place Flowers or a Flag
I think every American should visit Arlington National Cemetery at least once in their lives. The endless rows of white are a humbling sight, and the changing of the guard is something every citizen of the United States should witness. However, traveling to Arlington every year for Memorial Day is far from practical. There are likely many veterans buried in local cemeteries near you, many of which may go unnoticed even on the day set aside to remember them. Consider looking up historical records to see which graves belong to veterans, and drop off flowers or an American flag to show your respect. Even if you aren’t sure how to find the grave of a veteran, consider visiting a cemetery where an ancestor or relative is buried, and take the time to honor their memory and the impact they had on your life. This can be a powerful way to teach your children to remember those who have come before.
Memorial Day is a chance for all of us to unite in our honor and respect for those who have fought for our country. Even when we disagree with the cause for which they were sent to war, we can honor their willingness to sacrifice everything in the name of service to their fellow Americans. Memorial Day isn’t about politics. Memorial Day isn’t about competing interests, and it isn’t about you and me. Memorial Day is about those who have died for us, those who have sacrificed everything for us even when we didn’t ask them to. Memorial Day is about remembrance; don’t forget to remember.