VA Rocky Mountain Network
Behind Friendly Lines: Happy Memorial Day?
This year, before you start off the day with that greeting, I’m asking you to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday. Granted, the day does represent the unofficial beginning of summer, and for many a day off, but lest we forget Memorial Day is set aside to honor the men and women who died while serving in the military and is considered America’s most solemn holiday to honor their memory.
It traces its roots back to the Civil War when the United States began establishing its first national cemeteries. In the late 1860s, Americans began paying tribute to the thousands of fallen soldiers by placing flowers on their graves and reciting prayers.
So, what can you do to honor those who lost their lives to preserve our freedom and liberty? Pause for just a moment and consider the following.
On the fourth Monday in May, those that we honor could have been someone storming the beach at Normandy during World War II. It could have been a corpsman trying to save someone’s life – only to lose his own in Vietnam. It could have been a female engagement team member who was killed in Iraq. It could have been one of the few servicemembers who fell victim – and nearly 200 others – to a suicide bomber while guarding the gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport in August 2021. It could have been someone lost to suicide after coming home.
Each represent those who pledged to uphold the Constitution of the United States. They deployed to remote locations to serve as a bulwark for democracy…or freedom…or liberty. There’s no need to ponder the reason they were fighting overseas – that’s a discussion for a later time. One that needs to happen. Not now. Not in advance of Memorial Day. Right now, the charge is to remember those who gave up their life for their country. Remember their dedication. Remember their selflessness. Remember their ultimate sacrifice.
What can you do to honor our fallen on (or before) Memorial Day? Here are several ideas:
- Fly your American flag. Fly it at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day, then raise it back to the standard display. If you don’t have a U.S. flag, buy one from your local hardware store and display it on the front of your house.
- Visit one of our national cemeteries. In Colorado we have three: Pikes Peak National Cemetery (Colorado Springs), Fort Logan National Cemetery (Denver), and Fort Lyon National Cemetery (Las Animas). All are open for visitation daily from sunrise to sunset. At Fort Logan, volunteers will place flags at over 149,000 headstones, and everyone will be remembered during a culminating ceremony to honor the fallen from 9-10 am MDT on May 30.
- Participate in a march, hosted by Carry The Load. Remember those that paid the ultimate sacrifice, organized by Carry The Load, at Fort Logan National Cemetery on May 25 (3:30 pm) or Pikes Peak National Cemetery on May 27 (3:30 pm). Visit https://www.cem.va.gov/Memorial-May/#Participating for more information.
- Observe a moment of silence. Across the country, at 3 pm local time on Memorial Day, honor the memory of those who paid the ultimate price.
- Leave a tribute on the Veterans Legacy Memorial webpage. Visit https://www.vlm.cem.va.gov/, a webpage that honors more than 4 million Veterans interred in VA national cemeteries and VA grant-funded tribal, state, and territory Veteran cemeteries, and leave a tribute, post a comment of gratitude, or share the memorial by email or on social media.
- Wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war – a tradition that began with a World War I poem, “In Flanders Fields,” by John McCrae.
- Participate in the Memorial Day March, hosted by Colorado Veterans Project, at UCHealth Park in Colorado Springs on May 29. Visit www.memorialdaymarch.com for more information. Whether you’re a civilian, veteran, or active military, you can run, march, or walk to help feed homeless veterans. Virtual options are also offered.
- Participate in a Memorial Day Q&A, hosted by RallyPoint. Sign up for an account (exclusively for members of the military and veteran community) at www.rallypoint.com. Search VetXL and join the conversation with other survivors and caregivers. This live event is scheduled from 11 am – 12 pm MDT on May 26. Ask a question about survivor resources, benefits, caregiver support, memorial affairs, and other related topics ahead of time.
- Say a prayer for survivors. Statista estimates there are 277,000 survivors in the United States. These survivors are spouses, children, parents, and other loved ones who lost a relative in combat. I may not know where you stand in your faith journey, but Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
- And finally, I ask you to consider not saying “Happy Memorial Day.” Instead say something like “Remember the fallen,” or “Honor their sacrifice.” Better yet, turn it into a conversation by asking someone: “Who do you honor today?”
Thanks for allowing me to walk alongside you behind friendly lines.