Discover How To Celebrate Memorial Day With Meaning Even When A Pandemic Restricts Public Gatherings
Many Americans tend to regard Memorial Day as the start of summer. They have forgotten, and some never knew, that it’s more than that. Pegasus senior care professionals in Highland Park and elsewhere offer suggestions on how to celebrate Memorial Day with meaning.
Memorial Day began as Decoration Day to honor those who died in the Civil War. May 30 was the day selected for decorating graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and flags.
After World War I, Decoration Day expanded to include personnel who died in any American war. In 1971 the name was changed to Memorial Day, and it became a national holiday. The date was changed then to the last Monday in May.
Memorial Day honors those who died in battle or from wounds suffered during combat. It differs from Veteran’s Day, which recognizes all who have served in the armed forces during peacetime and wartime. Patriot Day honors the civilians who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Wear A Poppy In Remembrance Of Fallen Soldiers
May 30 was initially chosen because it didn’t correspond to the anniversary of a specific battle. Flowers were in full bloom then. After World War I, one flower, in particular, came to represent Memorial Day.
That flower was the poppy, a red flower that survived a battlefield in Belgium. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea wrote a poem titled In Flanders Field honoring the war dead lying beneath the poppies.
McCrea’s poem inspired Moina Michael to write an accompanying poem titled We Shall Keep The Faith. She was instrumental in getting the poppy recognized as a symbol of remembrance. Americans continue to wear a poppy to honor the war dead on Memorial Day.
The Human Cost Of War
More than a million American soldiers have died in warfare and other military conflicts. The actual number is unknown, especially for early wars in which records were incomplete or lost later. The following are the best estimates:
- American Revolution – 4,435
- War of 1812 – 2,260
- Mexican War – 13,283
- Civil War – 618,000 (may have been as many as 850,000)
- Spanish-American War – 2,446
- World War I – 116,516
- World War II – 405,399
- Korean War – 36,574
- Vietnam War – 58,220
- Gulf War (Desert Shield/Desert Storm) – 383
- Iraq-Afghanistan (ongoing) – 6,673 as of May 2016
Each number represents an individual whose life was cut short.
In the minds of many, Memorial Day weekend is an opportunity for picnics, BBQs, and similar recreational activities. Parades, putting flowers at gravesites, and visiting historical sites are ways that others have observed the occasion.
Pandemic restrictions prevented public gatherings in 2020. The restrictions are easing, but public observances may still be limited. Even so, there are ways that you can honor those who sacrificed everything for your freedom.
Pause, Reflect, Honor
If you have a flag, fly it at half-mast until noon. Pause for a minute of silence at 3:00 p.m. for the National Moment of Remembrance. Listen to Taps as a wreath is placed at the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier.
Listen to the National Memorial Day Concert presented by PBS on Sunday, May 30, 2021. It will be available for two weeks via streaming if you miss the live performance. Read the stories of those who served.
Share the story of your wounded or deceased service member with others at the Wall of Remembrance. As part of a solemn ceremony, your letter or email will be placed appropriately as follows:
- World War II Memorial
- Korean War Veterans Memorial
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- Arlington National Cemetery (for the fallen buried there and the dead from Afghanistan and Iraq)
You may also share your stories online about those who served in World War I to the current wars. There’s also a site for those wishing to remember the 9/11 deceased.
Teach The Next Generation The Meaning Of Memorial Day
Try to teach your grandchildren the true meaning of Memorial Day. If you aren’t able to be with them in person, make use of electronic communication. Arrange to watch concerts and ceremonies at the same time they watch and discuss them afterward.
Teach them flag etiquette. Explain that flying the flag at half-mast represents mourning.
Tell them about any family members who have served in the armed forces. Send them a poppy to wear in remembrance. Or choose a Memorial Day pin.
You can also offer financial support to organizations dedicated to survivors of deceased soldiers. Consider the following:
- American Gold Star Mothers
- American Red Cross
- Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund
- Gold Star Awareness
- Gold Star Wives of America
- Society of Military Widows
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)
- Veterans’ Wives International Network
Your church or similar group may know of local survivors to whom you can offer assistance if needed.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our senior care specialists in Highland Park and our other locations understand the meaning of Memorial Day. They can help you remember and honor the sacrifice made by our fallen war heroes.