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How Intergenerational Families Can Celebrate Memorial Day

small American flags in the grass for memorial day

Memorial Day, held on the last Monday of May, marks the first long weekend and unofficial start of summer. It’s a wonderful time to gather for barbecues and outdoor activities with our families, but as we know, that’s not what the holiday is really about. Take the opportunity to  ask and answer the question, “What is Memorial Day?” with your family members. As you remember the fallen and those you’ve lost, you bring meaning to the Memorial Day weekend for all generations.

Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day

Attend a local Memorial Day ceremony. Most communities hold remembrance ceremonies and pay tribute to their own deceased service members.
Join other volunteers. Did you know that Memorial Day was once called Decoration Day? After the Civil War, it was designated as a time to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers. Visit a cemetery or memorial and join volunteers in placing American flags or wreaths at headstones.

Pause in silence. Observe the National Moment of Remembrance and explain to younger grandchildren that this annual minute of silence asks Americans, wherever they are at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, to stop and remember the men and women who gave their lives in military service. Many radio stations observe the moment by playing “Taps.”Go to a Memorial Day parade. Kids love a parade, and it’s a great opportunity for you to answer the question, “What is Memorial Day?” in a relaxed and engaging way. Your local parade may  be held virtually again this year, but watching it online will be just as meaningful as attending in person.

Fly the flag. A good show of support is to fly the American flag on this important day. Involve your children and grandchildren by teaching them how to display and handle the flag with proper etiquette.

Participate in a Memorial Day walk or run. Look for a local family-friendly walk or run that all generations of your family can participate in. Try run-hosting websites for ideas. Of course, many public events are virtual these days, and annual Memorial Day weekend races are no exception.

Talk about Gold Star families. Teach your grandchildren what it means to be a Gold Star Family. Explain how much it means to these families to receive support from others as they honor their service member’s ultimate sacrifice on this day.

Share your family’s military history. Take the opportunity to share stories and photos with your family members. Even a few minutes talking about relatives or other family members that have served can make a big impression on a youngster.

Raise funds with a bake sale or lemonade stand. Help your grandchildren set up a lemonade stand or sell cookies to support the USO. What they earn can pay for a comfort food package, phone call home, or even a long-distance bedtime story for our troops. The funds can also sponsor a thank-you bouquet through the Memorial Day Foundation, which lays them at a New York City war memorial of your choice. Get the kids involved in writing a thank-you message or dedication to accompany the bouquet.

Watch the National Memorial Day Concert. This star-studded and award-winning television event is one  of the highest-rated programs on PBS. Here’s where to check your local listing.

Watch a movie about the U.S military. There are many short films and full-length features that document life in the U.S. military. Here’s a list of movies that combine information and entertainment that older family members may enjoy. Because military movies can be intense or scary for younger viewers, look at age-rated rankings to check that they’re appropriate.

Making Poppies. Poppies have become a symbol of remembrance and tribute. Today, veterans at VFW and VA medical facilities and veterans’ homes assemble artificial poppies, distributed by veterans’ service organizations throughout the country. Enlist your family in donating to help fund the poppy program, which supports veterans and their widows, widowers and orphans. Or try inexpensive and simple craft ideas for younger children to make poppies that they wear and display as a show of support.

Visit a historic site. If you’re able to muster the troops for a family weekend away, why not include a trip somewhere rich in national history.

Consider these national parks that honor our service members: Gettysburg National Military Park. The historic battle fought on this Pennsylvania field was the inspiration for Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. You and your loved ones can take a self-guided tour that starts at the museum and follows the trails, or join a licensed battlefield guide while touring the park. The Soldier’s National Cemetery is the resting place for many Union soldiers and those who died in all American wars since 1865.

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. The park encapsulates six sites, each with historical significance. These include the Chalmette Battlefield and Calmette National Cemetery. The battlefield was the site of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 and contains a reconstructed American rampart and reconstructed 1830s house. The cemetery houses over 14,000 headstones of soldiers from the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and the Vietnam War. On Memorial Day, volunteers and staff place flags on every headstone in remembrance.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Our nation’s capital is home to many significant national monuments and memorials, including the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. This majestic black wall is etched with the names of over 58,000 servicemen and servicewomen lost during the Vietnam conflict. Engage younger family members by searching for names of those on the wall here.

Pearl Harbor National Monument. As one of three locations dedicated to World War II Valor in the Pacific, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial holds multiple historic sites, including the most famous, the USS Arizona Memorial. Honoring the 1, 177 crewmen who perished during the attack on the USS Arizona, the memorial is constructed around the hull of the ship where they’re entombed. From the visitor’s center, you can tour the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

Arlington National Cemetery. America’s national shrine to those who have honorably served holds ceremonies open to the public over the Memorial Day weekend. These include the annual National Memorial Day Observance, the Flags-In ceremony, and wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

At Freedom Plaza, we’re dedicated to creating a community where veterans can flourish. We offer senior living for veterans that includes a range of activities and conveniences, including the services of an ROC (Retired Officers’ Corporation). The ROC is a source of continuous assistance to veterans and surviving spouses who choose our community, offering complimentary services such as Military Retiree Assistance, Medicare and Tricare Claims, and flag donation and upkeep. It also organizes a well-attended annual Memorial Day program and Veterans Day program. Learn more by contacting us today.