BBQ’s, camping, swimming, family, and friends…the unofficial kick-off to summer! Those are the typical thoughts associated with Memorial Day. But, we know there is a deeper meaning to this historic and heartfelt day.
Memorial Day is celebrated annually on the last Monday in May. It was originally noted as ‘Decoration Day’, which first began after the Civil War. Decoration Day is exactly what it sounds like, where people would use flowers to decorate war memorials and grave sites to remember the lives of fallen soldiers. Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971.
Today, we still use this holiday as an opportunity to honor those who lost their lives while serving their country. We also use it to honor those friends and family members that are no longer with us. This holiday will look different as we continue to adjust to our ‘new normal’ lives of social distancing, face masks, and respecting stay at home orders. However, that doesn’t diminish the honor and values that come along with this day.
Personal Story from our ONA Intern:
Memorial Day is usually spent with family and friends enjoying a cookout if the weather is permitting in Wisconsin. However, my family usually takes part in my community’s annual Memorial Day Parade and special cemetery ceremony by our local Daughters of the American Revolution in part honoring local history buffs and those interested in veteran affairs. The most special part about my Memorial Day celebration happens at my mom’s family cemetery. My grandma and mom always get flowers to decorate the gravesites for the members of our family no longer with us.
About 4 years ago, my brother inspired me with his act of respect and kindness for others. He took a few of the extra fake flowers and took to decorating every veteran’s grave with a flower. Most who didn’t have any or were from long ago and did not have a family to honor them anymore. He explained, “I see how much respect our veterans and military do not get. I thought this was a simple way I could honor a few of those members who died for our freedom”. He has such a passion for showing love and respect to veterans both alive and passed on, that he inspired me to do the same! I think the best way to celebrate Memorial Day is to be thankful for the freedoms you have and participate in a local honoring ceremony to remember how you got them!