In 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic established Declaration Day as a time to honor the armed forces. On that day, Americans would decorate the graves of soldiers with flowers.
The name of the holiday has changed, but the sentiment has not. Memorial Day was an opportunity for Americans to stop and give thanks to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to make our way of life possible. While we should feel that gratitude all the time, and we should offer that gesture of respect to service people year-round, Memorial Day honors the sacrifice made by not only the brave soldiers who died in the line of duty, but also by their families, who gave up valuable time with their loved ones, knowing it was for a greater cause.
Memorial Day is meant to commemorate the soldiers who have died, but it also serves as a reminder of the service men and women who continue to take up that fight. There are currently more than 1.4 million people serving this country, across all branches of the armed forces. Veterans represent another 22 million. Use this Memorial Day as a chance to thank the soldiers in your life, living and dead.
Yesterday’s Memorial Day Parade held by the Veterans’ Council was a display of thanks put together by Warwick residents. It was one of the best-attended parades we have seen in recent years. There were other ways people displayed their gratitude and support to those who have fought, or are still fighting, for our freedom. There was a steady stream of visitors to the Avenue of Flags displayed at Pawtuxet Memorial Park.
Don’t let your appreciation end now that the holiday has passed.
If you can, consider donating to a charity that supports the armed forces, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars USA, the American Legion, the Wounded Warrior Project or Rhode Island-based Operation Stand Down. Put together a care package or even just write a letter to the troops overseas; you never know how much of an impact it could have on a soldier to know that the work he or she is doing is appreciated. Gift your frequent flyer miles to service men and women undergoing treatment at a medical center in Iraq or Afghanistan.
If you own a business, consider giving special consideration to qualified veterans looking for work. Even if you don’t own a business, try and frequent those companies who have a proven track record of working with veterans. Too many veterans are homeless or struggling to make ends meet, and as Operation Stand Down’s mission states, these men and women are not looking for a hand out, they just need “a hand up.”
Whether your contribution is large or small, a donation or just a “thank you,” take a moment to pay your respects to the soldiers who have died, and support the soldiers who march on.