Memorial Day is often considered the unofficial start of summer and the warm weather ahead. But the holiday’s real purpose is to commemorate veterans who have given their lives in any U.S. war or conflict.
Read more about the history behind Memorial Day and find ways you can observe it - even during a time of social distancing.
History of Memorial Day in America
Memorial Day’s history in the United States reaches back to the time of the Civil War.
Decoration Day was first observed on May 30, 1868. That’s when the head of an organization of Union veterans designated it as a day to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers. The first major observance took place at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Some local areas had already been observing a similar springtime practice.
After World War I, the practice was expanded to include veterans from any U.S. war. And in 1971, Congress declared the last Monday in May a national holiday.
In 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance Act was signed into law. At 3 p.m., Americans are encouraged to pause “for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.”
History of Memorial Day information is from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Thirteen Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day In Ohio
Some Memorial Day festivities - parades and large gatherings - will be different this year. But there are still ways you can safely commemorate the true meaning of this day and enjoy the many freedoms Americans now have thanks to our veterans.
1. Decorate your home and fly the flag
Add patriotic bunting to your windows or patio; plant some red, white, and blue flowers; and fly your flag from a prominent location.
2. Visit a veterans’ memorial or cemetery
There are a number near Cridersville and throughout Ohio. Or, you can take a virtual tour of the Vietnam Wall, World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and more.
3. Watch the Memorial Day special from Washington, D.C.
Although the annual National Memorial Day Parade has been canceled for 2020, you can view the special airing in its place here.
4. Thank a veteran
Maybe a parent, sibling, spouse, child, or you yourself are a veteran. Take a moment to thank them for their service, whether it’s in person or via a phone call.
5. Watch a patriotic movie
Classics like Patton or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington are favorites. Newer flicks like Captain America or Lincoln are also good picks for today.
6. Take a moment of silence
3 p.m. is the National Moment of Remembrance. Take a minute to contemplate the sacrifices of our veterans at this time in the afternoon.
7. Watch the PBS Memorial Day Concert
To start your observance a day early, watch this year’s version of the annual event, airing from 8-9:30 p.m. May 24 on your local PBS station.
8. Listen to your favorite patriotic tunes
John Phillip Sousa, James Cagney, or the Beach Boys - whatever patriotic music means to you, you can find it online to enjoy on May 25.
9. Listen to stories from veterans at StoryCorps
StoryCorps travels across the country to record audio stories from veterans and their family members. Listen to a variety of stories here.
10. Read the Gettysburg Address
One of the most well-known and powerful speeches in American history was also one of the shortest: It was only a few minutes long. Many people have it memorized; if not, you can read it here.
11. Take a virtual tour of Arlington National Cemetery
Visit the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, which covers more than 600 acres on the west bank of the Potomac River.
12. Create a care package for a solider
You can make a difference and thank a soldier who’s currently serving with a care package. Get ideas for what to include in a package here. You can also write a letter on its own or to include in the package.
13. Make some patriotic arts and crafts
A sidewalk-chalk masterpiece or a painted cornhole set - whatever your crafting skill level, you can find some ideas here (they’re perfect for the Fourth of July, too).
See What’s Happening at Otterbein
With summer coming up, it’s also a great time to step back and make plans for the future.
The good news is that even if life seems uncertain right now, we can take steps to prepare for a more certain tomorrow.
- What kinds of plans do you have in mind?
- Have you thought about where you’d like to make your next move?
We’d love to give you a closer look at Otterbein Cridersville and help you see how living here can make life easier and more fulfilling. Would you like to join us for a virtual tour of our veteran-friendly community?
Just click the button below to schedule your virtual tour today.