Memorial Day is a solemn holiday that is difficult to appreciate. What makes it difficult is how to honor and how to remember in an appropriate and respectful manner for the military members who fell in battle. The best way to remember the fallen on Memorial Day is to make Memorial Day a day of personal memories, sharing, and respect.
Fly a Flag at Your Home. Flying a flag at your home is a wonderful way to make sure that you remember the sacrifice of Memorial Day the entire day. If you can, have everyone in your neighborhood fly their flags. Memorial Day helps remind us how special America is and the fluttering of flags along neighborhoods, on lawns, and from windows makes everyone pause, remember, and appreciate the greatest sacrifice a service member can make.
Remember the Favorite Times & Share the Stories of Fallen Friends. This is one of the hardest pieces of advice to give about Memorial Day. Remembering and appreciating fallen friends is very hard because it brings back such intense emotions that do not fade quickly. However, it transforms Memorial Day into a day of personal memory and growth. A few stories about my friends that fell. One of my friends was a Special Forces, military ski instructor the day I first met him. I was brand new to my Special Forces unit and I was trying (and failing) to ski some intermediate downhill terrain in my military issue skis and boots. I was, literally, pulling my head from a snow bank when I looked up and saw him beautifully skiing swiftly down the terrain that I had just tumbled down. He skied down to me, helped me up, and then taught me how to ski better. He helped inspire me to be a better officer from that day forward. These are the memories of my friends that I want to share and I want others to remember. Memorial Day is not a day to remember how military members died. I want my friend remembered for being a great leader, for being a skilled Special Forces Non-Commissioned Officer, and for being an inspiration to everyone that met him. Memorial Day is a day to remember the men and women and what made them great soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen.
Go & Visit a National Cemetery to Respect Fallen Military Members. Finding a national or state cemetery close to your home is a moving way to begin Memorial Day. If you can, go at dawn and watch the sunrise over the headstones. Walking among the graves, reading the names, and remembering the conflict that the soldier, sailor, marine, or airmen fell in is a moving and instructive way for children to remember Memorial Day. What always, always strikes me when I visit National Cemeteries is the sheer number of the fallen. I always see soldiers in formations which then fades into the images of the headstone. Every headstone has a memory, a face, and a family. Look up the closest National Cemetery through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs website at https://www.cem.va.gov/cem/cems/listcem.asp
Reach Out to Surviving Family Members of the Fallen. If you know someone personally who had a family member fall in battle reach out to them before or after Memorial Day. When you talk to them, tell them one or several of your own stories of what you remember about the person who gave their life for the country. This simple act of reaching out, listening, and sharing your own memories is invaluable for their remembrances. Sharing and remembering funny stories and special occasions re-creates and remembers everything that made that person special.
Donate to the Children of the Fallen. Remembering the children of the fallen is a meaningful way to make a difference on Memorial Day. If you can, donate to a program that creates college scholarships for these children. Even better, serve as a coach, as a tutor, or as a mentor to help these children overcome the loss of a parent and become the great person that is inside each one of them. Helping a child of the fallen is one of the best things to help continue the memory of their fallen parent.
This Memorial Day remember and re-appreciate the fallen on a personal level. Share the stories and special memories of fallen friends and make others see how they were special not because they fell, but by being the people they were. Visiting a National Cemetery and reaching out to surviving family members is a profound way to listen and understand how special and unique the fallen servicemember was. Finally, find a way through donations, mentoring, or other forms of support to help the children of the fallen to become great people. Memorial Day is special when we remember the fallen at a personal level.
Related stories and information:
The Memorial Day poppy is inspired by the World War I poem, “In Flanders Fields” by Lt.Col. John McCrae of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Visit USAA’s virtual poppy wall where you can dedicate a #PoppyinMemory at http://poppyinmemory.com
About the blogger:
Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published 200 articles in 100 publications on career, business, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics. Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better. Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University. Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and www.CombatToCorporate.com.
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