“In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the birthplace of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866 honored local veterans who had fought in the civil war.”
“One of the earliest Memorial Day Celebrations (previously called Decoration Day) was in Charleston, SC. 260 Union soldiers died and were buried in a mass grave behind a racetrack, previously known as the Washington Racecourse and Jockey Club, a posh country club before it became a prison for Union soldiers. Those freed from enslavement later exhumed their bodies and buried them in a new cemetery. On May 1, 1865, a crowd of 10,000 people, mostly freed slaves with some white missionaries, staged a parade around the burial site. Three thousand black school children placed flowers on the graves.”
Later, more cities began a formal celebration after seeing soldiers who had returned home from battle, decorating the graves of their fallen friends with flowers. They did this because they missed their friends who had died fighting on the battlefields. Today, we continue this tradition and honor those who have given their lives to protect our freedom by decorating their graves with flags and flowers. Arlington National Cemetery is open daily from 8am-5pm, where you can witness the ritual of offering flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I was able to watch this beautiful and symbolic ceremony in 1997. The memory will last me the rest of my life.
Today, veterans are returning home to an America that is torn apart by divisive politics and are struggling with unemployment, poverty, and homelessness. But there are many ways you can help your veterans as they transition back into civilian life.
Veterans are our friends, neighbors and family members who have put their lives on the line to defend our country. They deserve our support.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do to help veterans. Here are five things you can do today:
- Donate to a veteran charity or organization that provides direct services to veterans and their families.
- Support local organizations that help veterans and their families find employment opportunities and access housing resources.
- Get involved with veteran-focused events in your community, such as town hall meetings and job fairs.
- Volunteer at a VA medical center, veteran center, or food bank near you.
- If you have time on your hands, consider starting a campaign to raise funds for an organization dedicated to helping veterans.
You may wonder what I plan to do for our veterans. I have applied to join the coaching team for Stand Beside Them as a life coach in my spare time. Fingers crossed and many prayers, I will be accepted. If not, I will offer my services to local organization in support of local veterans.
Memorial Day is a time to pause and reflect on the sacrifices made by our service members, both living and dead. Let us also take time to remember the families they left behind. The ones who carry on without their loved one’s physical presence but not without the memories they leave behind- these are people who make sacrifices every day for our freedom. We should never forget them!