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Memorial Day’s meaning gets a little clouded by the last Monday in May. Your neighbor may prep his boat for a day at the lake, and your coworkers are probably abuzz with excitement over spending a vacation day shopping or picnicking. But how will you spend it?
It’s important to take time to relax on Memorial Day—it is, after all, the unofficial start of summer vacation. But we’re inclined to think that a Memorial Day spent entirely on you is a Memorial Day wasted. Include in your Memorial Day celebration some commemoration of the fallen service members who inspired it.
Cheer up deployed service members with a surprise note or care package. Receiving mail from home will do more than temporarily lift their spirits. It will also remind military personnel how much you appreciate them. Plan to mail your parcel the Saturday before or the Tuesday after Memorial Day, since the post office will be closed on Monday.
Surprising as it may be, cemeteries actually need volunteers. Let Memorial Day be the first of many days you honor veterans who died in battle. Helping out at a local veteran’s cemetery is a very practical way to honor fallen service members. Find out if your local cemetery needs help mowing lawns, raising and lowering flags when appropriate or removing litter.
You can also volunteer for an individual veteran. Aged or disabled veterans may especially be in need of your assistance, whether your help involves yard work or fetching groceries.
Look around the community for Memorial Day activities that you’re interested in. Sometimes attendance can make or break Memorial Day traditions, so supporting them is an important way to keep these cultural events going. Attend parades or speeches given by veterans in your community.
Sacrifice something of your own this Memorial Day. You can give up or giveaway necessities or luxuries as a way to connect with the ultimate sacrifice made by fallen service members. Your sacrifice—whether it’s a food, clothing or blood donation—may pale in comparison to the sacrifices commemorated on Memorial Day, but it’s still a way to honor others.
If nothing else, thank a veteran the next time you see one. Volunteering and expressing your gratitude to veterans doesn’t have to begin and end on Memorial Day.