Memorial Day often signifies the “unofficial start of summer” frequently celebrated with tasty barbecues, pool parties, and unashamedly eating as many cool dairy treats as we can stand.
However, amidst the freedom we feel from having an extra day off work, no more school, or even the excitement of upcoming summer trips we often forget to remember and truly honor the thousands of U.S. service members who sacrificed their lives for the sake of our freedom.
But how can our “remembering” of those who died in service to our nation extends beyond a brief thought in our downtime or a rushed prayer before chowing down on a grilled hot dog or hamburger?
Learn - Spend some time by yourself or with your family brushing up on your knowledge of Memorial Day and its history (as it’s often mixed up with Veterans Day). Here are a few facts to get you started in your deep dive into our nation's fallen heroes.
Memorial Day was originally observed on May 30, 1868, as Decoration Day when people would decorate the graves, often with flowers, of fallen Civil War soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetary. After World War I this extended to both men and women who had died in U.S. military service.
If you know of someone with a Gold Star, they’re a family member of a service member who has died while in the line of duty. According to USO, The “Gold Star Family” designation “honors that service member’s ultimate sacrifice while acknowledging their family’s loss, grief, and continued healing.”
The Tomb of the Unkown Soldier is a white marble sarcophagus that sits on top of a hill in Arlington National Cemetary and is the cemetery’s most iconic historical memorial. It’s guarded 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, to honor the unidentified U.S soldiers who gave their lives in the line of duty.
Pray - Actually, intentionally pray. Pray in thanksgiving and gratitude for the service members who made the ultimate sacrifice. Pray for the families of our nation’s heroes who have passed away. Pray for our country now and the future of our country. Pray for the soldiers who are still serving in active duty and are putting their lives at risk every day. Pray for peace.
Give - If you know of an individual or family who has lost a loved one in the line of duty, stop by and offer them flowers, a meal, or simply a hug to let them know you’re thinking about them and their fallen loved one, as this time can be especially hard for them.
On GiveSendGo you can find families fundraising to hold a memorial service of a loved one who died while in service, to make a donation to a charity in their fallen loved one’s name, or simply to help afford the cost of living in their loved one’s absence.
No matter the amount, donate to their campaign and/or leave a prayer message on their campaign.
Visit - Honor a family member who gave their lives in the line of duty or even a fallen service member you may not know by bringing flowers and/or spending some time in prayer at their grave.
To find a cemetery near you and honor our nation’s fallen heroes visit the National Cemetary Administration at https://www.cem.va.gov/find-cemetery/.
Join - Wherever you are at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day pause and share a moment of silence with others across the nation to honor our nation’s fallen heroes.
You can also display the American Flag (if you aren’t already) outside of your home. According to Military One Source, the U.S. flag is flown at half-staff from dawn until noon on Memorial Day while many across the nation fly their POW/MIA flags to also honor those missing in action and prisoners of war.
Wearing a red poppy on Memorial Day is also a popular way to honor those who have passed while serving.
This Memorial Day, let’s truly honor, remember, and praise God for our nation’s fallen heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
John 15:13 (ESV) says this, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”