Ways you can pay respect to those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice
Since 1868, Americans have set aside one day a year to honor the over 1.1 million men and women who gave their lives while serving their country. While Memorial Day comes just once a year, VA and its employees uphold the meaning behind it each and every day by providing the best care possible to our Veterans. Today, we’re sharing ways we’re honoring fallen Veterans on Memorial Day.
Initially called Decoration Day because families and friends would spend the day decorating the graves of their fallen loved one; the day was renamed Memorial Day during World War II and became a federal holiday in 1971. It serves to honor the men and women whose lives and actions in battle helped to shape not just our Nation, but the world. Whether they were present when the first shot was fired at Lexington and Concord or they’ve walked the streets of Baghdad, they’ve had a direct impact on history.
A simple way to both show your respect and support living Veterans and their families is through the purchase of a red poppy. Known as the “flower of remembrance,” the poppy gained popularity after Canadian surgeon, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, penned the poem “In Flanders’ Fields” during WWI. In it, he describes the crimson flowers growing between the crosses marking the graves of those who fell during that pivotal battle. It was proclaimed the official memorial flower of the VFW in 1922. Now, artificial poppies are manufactured by patients and residents in VA hospitals and homes, with proceeds going to support Veterans, widows, and orphans affected by war. By purchasing and wearing a red poppy, you can honor Memorial Day while making a difference in a living Veteran’s life.
Another visual way to mark the day is by flying your American flag at half-staff. However, there are guidelines to follow when doing so. When putting the flag at half-staff, raise it quickly to the top of the staff, then slowly lower it halfway down. The flag should only be flown at half-staff from dawn until noon before being raised to full-staff until sunset. You can find more information on flag etiquette here.
No matter how or where you’re spending your Memorial Day, take time to pause for the National Moment of Remembrance. At 3:00 p.m. local time, take one minute to pause and reflect on the sacrifices made by those who have lost their lives fighting for the United States. You can spend the minute alone or in a group, in silence or while listening to “Taps.” If you happen to be driving, turn your headlights on to show your participation. The goal of the Moment of Remembrance is to acknowledge and spread the true meaning behind Memorial Day.
Each and every day beyond Memorial Day, over 365,000 VA employees dedicate their lives to serve those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for their country by providing quality health care to Veterans and their families. Their unselfish call to duty is just one way VA gives back to our Veterans. To learn more and join our mission in supporting our service men and women every day of the year, visit vacareers.va.gov.