For many of us, it feels like the kick-off to summer, the three-day weekend that ushers out May and brings in June, signaling the end of the school year, the celebrating of graduations, and the first trips of the season to the beach and the lake. But Memorial Day as a holiday has an important place in our nation, as a time of remembrance, respect, and reflection, thinking on those who have given their lives for the American cause. So often, we can confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day. However, the holidays are distinct. Veterans Day, which takes place in November, is for the honoring of those who have been part of active military service and who are still currently serving in the military or are now retired. Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor members of the military who died while in service of our country. While you may think you’re being thoughtful to thank a veteran or active military member on Memorial day, and while it may be appreciated, it’s not really the purpose of the holiday. Take a look at the following ideas for honoring Memorial Day and who it commemorates.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

Take a pause: One of the simplest and yet most profound ways to commemorate Memorial Day is to take a pause at 3:00 that day, whatever your time zone, and reflect on those who have given their lives for your freedom. This time is called the National Moment of Remembrance, and the reason for the 3 pm time is that it is likely the time of day many Americans are in the middle of their enjoyment of the day off. Taking a moment to reflect on what the day means and who it is supposed to honor, particularly in the midst of the activity and day off, helps keep the focus on honoring and commemorating those who died in service to the American people. Rethink what you say to veterans on Memorial Day. While it’s always important to thank those you encounter who have served our country in the military, Navy veteran and co-founder of Fair360 Luke Visconti has this suggestion. Consider saying, “I hope you’re having a meaningful day.” As Visconti explains, “On Memorial Day, the veteran you’re talking to may be going through a bit of melancholy remembering people who died over the years, or friends who died in combat.”

I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism.
~Bob Riley

Fly your flag. It’s a somber and thoughtful moment to see flags flying on Memorial Day. How can you take part in commemorating our fallen servicemen and women with the utmost respect? The Veterans Affairs Department says that “On Memorial Day, the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of the nation’s battle heroes.” You’ll note that this is different from other national holidays in which we fly the flag. If you’re able, try to honor the flag specifics unique to this day. Attend Memorial Day ceremonies and volunteer to place flags and flowers at the graves of those being commemorated: Look for Memorial Day events and volunteer opportunities in your community. You can find both local and national events on the website. Remember, Memorial Day is a solemn and meaningful occasion to honor the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. By participating in these meaningful gestures, you can show your appreciation, respect, and gratitude to the military and their families on Memorial Day.

Heroes never die. They live on forever in the hearts and minds of those who would follow in their footsteps.
~Emily Potter