Memorial Day is a day set aside for us to remember and honor those who have died while serving in our country’s armed forces. The holiday was initially observed on May 30 from 1868 until 1970, when it was moved to the last Monday in May. The memorializing elements of this holiday are often lost in the onset of the summer vacation season these days, but many older Americans still observe the holiday more traditionally.
Formerly known as Decoration Day, many people observe this holiday by wearing poppies and placing flags on graves in military cemeteries across the country. Parades and special programs are traditionally held to honor veterans and remember the ultimate sacrifice they made while serving our country.
If your older loved ones know veterans who died in service to our country, perhaps you could visit their grave to place patriotic flowers or a flag. If those you care for are homebound, ask about memories of family members who were in the military. Look at photos and talk about those times. You might be surprised by what you learn!
Even if your mom or dad didn’t know anyone who served during wartime they probably have powerful memories about pivotal military moments such as Pearl Harbor, D-Day, or Desert Storm. Ask if they would be willing to share those memories with you. If they resist or seem uncomfortable talking about these events, then simply change the subject and leave it alone. Not everyone’s recollections are pleasant when related to military action.
Betsy’s family knew military service well. Her maternal grandfather was an infantryman during The Great War (World War I), and all four of his children served in either World War II or the Korean War. Betsy’s mother joined the Marine Corp after college during WWII and served stateside so “another man could go and fight” and her father joined the Army, also in WWII, and saw action in southern Europe and Northern Africa. While Sarah was happy to talk of her military service experience, her husband was always reluctant to discuss what he witnessed and experienced while in service.
The important consideration for you as a family caregiver is that Memorial Day is intended to honor and remember sacrificial service. Consider how you can best do this with those you care for. There probably won’t be lots of parades and local gatherings again this year but check with your local community’s public events to see if anything is being held. This year people are eager to get out gather socially, so you might find some opportunities to be social. If this isn’t possible, you could put a flag out by your mailbox, or even line your driveway or sidewalk with small flowers. Consider brightening the kitchen with a patriotic bouquet. Perhaps you could write a note of appreciation to a soldier currently deployed through Operation Gratitude. Observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 pm local time. Another alternative is to make a donation to your local Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) for a “Buddy” Poppy. Your donation will help support disabled veterans through state and national rehabilitation programs.
If nothing else works, enjoy the warm weather and promise of summer just around the bend. With every day we are closer to a post-pandemic new normal!
Betsy and I hope you’ll join us this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about how you observe Memorial Day.