Whenever we gather with family and friends to celebrate Memorial Day, it’s important to remember what—or rather who—we honor: the valorous men and women in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country and our freedom.
The COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t change the meaning of Memorial Day. It just forces us to get creative with our celebrations and tributes. You can also think of the first responders and emergency medical personnel tasked with handling the ravaging pandemic as soldiers fighting on the frontline of the struggle against this virus.
So, how can you stay true to the spirit of Memorial Day and pay your respects to our troops while also maintaining social distancing? Here are 10 suggestions that can show your patriotism without exposing yourself or your loved ones to the coronavirus.
1. Write letters to soldiers and their families
Electronic messages like SMS and emails may travel instantaneously, but they lack the intimacy and personality of a letter written by hand. Your correspondent can tell that you invested time and energy into putting your thoughts and feelings on paper.
That’s why a handwritten thank-you letter can make a profound impact on our soldiers and their families. Grab some pen and paper, make yourself comfortable, and tell them how grateful you are for their heroism.
There are several nonprofit organizations that deliver civilian letters to our troops abroad. A Million Thanks and similar organizations will make sure your handwritten letters get to where they need to go.
2. Assemble care packages for soldiers
Show our troops that you care by putting together care packages that can hopefully help ease their homesickness and give them some semblance of the comforts they left at home. You can include everyday non-perishable goods like toiletries, pre-portioned snacks, and anything that can provide entertainment, such as books, comics, board games, and playing cards.
You could also include handcrafted (but useful) items, like hand-knitted scarves and socks.
Since our soldiers often share their blessings with the locals in their operational areas, your care package may even help win hearts and minds in foreign lands. As Sun Tzu says, “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”
There are nonprofit organizations devoted to making care packages and delivering them to our soldiers posted far away from home. Operation Gratitude, for instance, holds events all year long and will run several events during Memorial Day weekend.
Contact one of these organizations to learn how you can send your care package to American soldiers.
3. Donate to military organizations and nonprofits that support our troops
Money can’t buy everything, but it can get plenty of work done. You can support our uniformed servicemen at home and abroad by donating to military organizations, charities, and other nonprofits.
Find a cause that resonates with you. You can lend your aid to wounded warriors recuperating in hospitals, comfort military families grieving for a lost loved one, or help battle-worn veterans in their struggle against the traumas of war.
Once you’ve selected a cause, look for an organization that shares your sentiments. Consult with services like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch to learn how the nonprofit works, the amount of funding it receives, and how it manages its funds. If everything checks out, send your donation.
4. Decorate your home with patriotic colors
While Memorial Day honors the memories of the fallen, it shouldn’t force a somber mood on you all day. Our soldiers gave their lives so we can live free, and living is just as important as freedom in that context.
Spruce up your home to reflect your patriotic pride. Now’s the time to unfold any American flag you keep in storage (more on this shortly) and let it fly on your porch or outside your door.
You could also decorate your living room with red-white-and-blue decorations. You can even get the kids in on it and make them by hand. It’s an excellent way to spend time with your family during Memorial Day weekend.
5. Plant a flag in your front yard
You likely already have an American flag on hand for Memorial Day, Flag Day, and the Fourth of July. Plant the flag in your front yard and display the stars and stripes the right way.
You can also fly the flag on your car (specifically, on the passenger side).
Wherever you place the flag, make sure you are treating it with the reverence it deserves.
The U.S. Flag Code sets the correct usage and treatment of the American flag. Important rules include the following:
- Don’t let the flag touch anything below it.
- Always let the flag fall free. Don’t draw it back or up in folds. Further, avoid hanging the flag like a garland.
- Don’t hang the flag upside down unless you’re trying to warn other people about something dangerous.
- When you hang it vertically against a wall, make sure the union sits on the viewer’s left side.
6. Create patriotic sidewalk art
Art offers a means of communication without resorting to spoken language or written words. Artwork that features red and white stripes alongside white stars and blue patches, for example, can invoke the U.S. flag and stir patriotic feelings.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have closed museums, but the very sidewalk can serve as a publicly visible canvas for art. Check with local authorities if you’re allowed to create some sidewalk chalk art.
Once you get the all-clear, break out the chalk. Scribble an encouraging message to cheer up any passing soldier on leave or indulge your inner artist by depicting Old Glory with colorful chalk.
Your imagination and the supply of chalk are the only limitations.
7. Prepare and serve food with a red-white-and-blue theme
No Memorial Day celebration would be complete without delicious food. Now, social distancing means you can’t invite your friends and neighbors over for a BBQ in your backyard. But that shouldn’t keep you from enjoying a good Memorial Day meal, especially if your food reflects this patriotic holiday.
For example, you can bake up a classic cream pie and decorate it with raspberries or strawberries (for the red) and some blueberries (for the blue).
Top it with some sparkler candles and you’ve got yourself a great dish that evokes the Stars and Stripes.
You can also cook up a batch of popcorn and add dried blueberries and cranberries into it. A bucket of red, white, and blue popcorn makes for a tasty snack while watching or listening to this year’s Memorial Day Concert (again, more on this later).
8. Drive by a memorial or visit your local veteran cemetery
While it may not be advisable to pay a visit to a memorial park or gather around a local memorial monument at this time, you can drive by them and pay your respects to our fallen heroes from a distance.
You can also lookup organizations that’ll let you donate flowers to the graves of veterans without having to go to the cemetery during the COVID-19 crisis. Or, if you’re able to do so while maintaining safe social distancing, you can visit your local veteran cemetery and lay flowers or decorate their tombstones with patriotic decor.
Laying flowers on the grave of a soldier known to have fought, bled, and died for freedom’s cause is a time-honored tradition. Poppies are a popular choice for those bouquets. They come in red, white, and blue, the right colors for a patriotic bouquet.
In the language of flowers, red poppies stand for death, remembrance, and consolation. White poppies represent sleep and peaceful rest. Finally, blue poppies speak of success.
When assembled together, a red, white, and blue bouquet of poppies honors our dead, bids them a peaceful repose, and assures them that their sacrifices will not go in vain.
9. Light a candle and participate in the National Moment of Remembrance
Silence speaks volumes. Some people consider it an emotion, a potent emotion, if not the most powerful one. That’s why you often hear people asking for a moment of silence during important events.
The National Moment of Remembrance takes place at 3:00 P.M. local time on Memorial Day. It asks everyone to stay silent for one minute while reflecting upon the heroism of our late soldiers.
10. Watch the Memorial Day Concert
In 1989, PBS founded the tradition of airing a concert on the last Sunday of May. Since that pioneering Memorial Day Concert, millions of Americans have either attended the live performance at the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building or tuned in to PBS, NPR, and AFN to watch or listen to some of the best performers in the world.
This year’s Memorial Day Concert will be the first fully virtual presentation of the annual event. Hosted by Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise, it will feature renowned performers like Trace Adkins, CeCe Winans, and the National Symphony Orchestra.
The 2020 Memorial Day Concert will air on Sunday, May 24, from 8:00 P.M. to 9:30 P.M. Eastern Time. You can watch it in the comfort and safety of your patriotically-decorated home while sharing red, white, and blue-themed finger food with your family.
Make this Memorial Day Weekend meaningful
Hopefully, these suggestions will not only enliven this year’s Memorial Day despite the COVID-19 pandemic, but also deepen your understanding of this important national holiday. There are many ways to display your patriotism and acclaim American men and women in uniform, and these are just a few of them.
No matter how you commemorate Memorial Day this year, just make sure it’s meaningful.