It’s almost that time of year! The pools will open. Your neighbors will start grilling. We will all celebrate the unofficial opening day of the summer season and it all starts with Memorial Day.
Sadly, this is one of the least understood and most frequently mishandled holidays on the American calendar.
More than just a day off work and an excuse to hit the lake, Memorial Day is a day of reflecting and remembering great loss and ultimate sacrifice. Its purpose is often confused with Veteran’s Day while its activities often resemble 4th of July celebrations.
However, Memorial Day is not about thanking our Veterans or celebrating our independence. Memorial Day is about remembering the fallen.
And so I present to you, 2 Things You Should Never Do on Memorial Day
#1 Do Not Say “Happy Memorial Day”
Memorial Day is not a celebration, it’s a day of remembrance. You’d never know it by the advertisements on TV or the displays in your favorite stores, but Memorial Day isn’t supposed to be a big commercial day of celebration and patriotism.
Can you imagine showing up at a friend’s funeral or memorial service with a cooler and a frisbee, shouting “Happy Funeral Day” to people you love? It would be horribly insensitive and wildly inappropriate. Saying “Happy Memorial Day” is no different.
If you’re searching for an appropriate way to wish someone well, consider wishing someone a “safe holiday weekend”. While you and other empathetic citizens may understand the gravity of this day, there will still be others who take advantage of the 3 day weekend for drinking and driving or boating, putting us all in danger.
#2 Do Not Thank a Veteran for His or Her Service
Nobody appreciates a thankful citizen more than I do, but Memorial Day is not the day to verbalize our gratitude to our Veterans. Honoring our military Veterans and their service is important and November 11th, Veterans Day, is the day that is designated for this recognition and appreciation.
While many well-meaning Americans thank our Veterans on Memorial Day it can be a difficult exchange of words for them to embrace. While you are thanking them for their service, they are most likely thinking of those heroes they served with who never came home.
What You SHOULD Do
If you’re wondering at this point what you CAN do and SHOULD do on Memorial Day this year, I have some suggestions:
- Enjoy your picnics and your barbecues and your boat rides on the lake, but say a prayer of thanksgiving for the sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes and a prayer of comfort for those they left behind.
- Set a Missing Man Table. You can read about the significance of this honor here.
- Take a trip to your local cemetery and point out Veteran headstones to your kids. See how far back the tombstones are dated and talk about the different wars and conflicts the Veterans may have served in.
- Clean a Veteran’s headstone at the cemetery. My husband created Uncover Our Names to show tombstones he’s cleaned and to encourage others to show our fallen Veterans the honor and respect they are due.
There are many other things you can do, but these are just a few ways that you can enjoy your day, remember the fallen, and be thankful that you live in the greatest nation on Earth.