For most of us in the U.S. it’s a welcome three day weekend. It’s the start of the summer. It’s time to fire up the grill and invite some friends over for barbecue. But for military families who’ve lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, or who are living without their deployed loved ones, Memorial Day is no picnic.
For families of the war dead, it’s a day when their memories may be even more heart-wrenching, when grief may feel even harder to bear. For families of deployed service members, there’s not much to celebrate. Their Memorial Day is more likely to be about a daddy who’s not there to grill the hotdogs, or a mommy who’s not there to go bike riding with her kids, or a husband who’s not there to snuggle up with his wife at the end of a long day.
Military families rarely complain about how oblivious most of us are to the sacrifices they make in service of our nation’s security. Maybe they should. In the meantime, I’m going to suggest that each of us takes some action on Memorial Day that reflects its true purpose of paying tribute to the U.S. men and women who died in military service and those who serve today.
What you do is up to you. But here are some possibilities:
- Observe the National Moment of Remembrance by joining other Americans in a minute of silence at 3:00 PM local time. If you are driving, turn on your lights.
- Visit a local memorial to your community’s war dead.
- Send a note of appreciation and condolence to someone you know who lost a loved one during military service —even if it was 50 years ago!
- Donate to Operation Healthy Reunions, which helps service members suffering from PTSD get prompt high-quality care when they return from combat.
- Do something thoughtful for the family of a deployed service member: Mow the lawn, watch the kids for a few hours, or drop off a meal.
Let’s join together to make Memorial Day really mean something. We will be better people for it, and the military families who do so much for us may feel a little less alone.