Any three-day weekend is worthy of celebration — especially when it’s signifying the beginning of warm weather, summer Fridays, and the season we thought might never come. But when we’re marking our calendars with plans to skip town for a weekend filled with barbecues and beer, it’s worth pausing to remember why exactly we’re getting that extra day off.
Every year, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. In addition to enjoying every last minute of your long weekend, here are a few ways to honor the holiday in the way it’s intended: with support and gratitude toward the men and women in the U.S. military (and their families).
What you can do
Fly your flag at half-mast
If you have a flag in your yard, fly it at half-mast until noon to show your recognition of fallen U.S. soldiers.
Wear red, white, and blue (but not the flag)
Breaking out your patriotic colors is a great way to show support for the U.S. military — but resist the temptation to wrap yourself in a flag for the ‘gram. Wearing a flag is seen as disrespectful to many (both in the military and not) so make sure you’re rocking patriotic colors that are meant to be worn.
Place flags on graves
If you have passed family members that were veterans, take the time to visit their grave and place a flag on it. This small gesture will put the intention of the holiday at the forefront of your mind, and will memorialize passed veterans and all that they sacrificed in their service.
Keep your eyes out for red poppies
Around Memorial Day, many Veterans of Foreign Wars members sell red, paper poppies in front of shopping centers. If you see one, consider making a donation and leaving your poppy on display in your car through the holiday.
Thank your veterans
The easiest tribute of all — thank any active military members or veterans you know for their service, and remind them that you’re aware and appreciative of the sacrifices they made in order to serve.
Where you can donate
If you’d like to memorialize the holiday with a donation, here are some great organizations that help veterans that you can consider:
Wounded Warrior Project is a charity and veterans service organization that offers a variety of programs, services, and events for wounded veterans of the military actions following September 11, 2001.
USO supports service men and women as they transition from active duty to veteran status. Their programs target real-life challenges, including education and employment assistance, as they pursue new career paths and move forward with life after service. They also help family members of the fallen, and wounded, ill, or injured wounded warriors.
The VFW offers many ways to show your support for America’s veterans, service members, and their families. You can donate online, give a memorial, or post the name of your hero on their tribute wall.