Like many Americans over Memorial Day, you might plan on spending this weekend grilling out with family, relaxing by the lake or going on a quick trip to the mountains. Memorial Day is well-known as time off from work, the perfect opportunity to relax and refresh. However, there’s much more to the holiday than simply taking a break.
Memorial Day is a time commemorating the U.S. military men and women who have died in active service to our country. We honor these servicemen and women for the contribution they gave, even when it cost them their lives. Memorial Day means much more than time off from work and hosting a barbecue, so if you want to get involved this weekend, check out these great ways to give back.
Serve at a homeless shelter.
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, approximately 11% of the current adult homeless population are veterans themselves, many of whom suffer from mental illness and/or substance abuse issues. Unfortunately, homelessness can be a pervasive issue many U.S. veterans face. By using time this Memorial Day to serve at a homeless shelter, you can potentially help veterans right in your community. Contact local shelters near you and see what assistance they need this week and how you can get involved.
Work with a nursing home.
More than 16 million Americans served in World War II; over 5.7 million served in the Korean War; and 2.7 million U.S. soldiers served in Vietnam. The youngest of these brave men and women are still in their 60s. Chances are, almost every nursing home in the country houses at least one veteran. Without visiting friends or family, nursing homes can feel like incredibly lonely, isolating places. Fortunately, you can brighten someone’s day by volunteering your time and talents to care for veterans within these home facilities.
Donate to organizations.
There are plenty of nonprofit organizations—both local and national—who work tirelessly to support veterans near you. These charities help veterans with housing, job placements and healthcare, or strive to improve the wellbeing for those on active duty. For example, organizations such as Combat Wounded, Veterans of Community Response and Veterans Matter are all valuable causes to contribute to. Research charities near you or nationally to find one you can support this Memorial Day.
Send a care package.
If you want to do something more personal and related to active duty service members, consider sending a care package this weekend. Put together a military care package to send overseas and raise a soldier’s spirits. Include goodies from the United States, comfort foods and of course a note thanking them for their service. These men and women are often separated from their family and friends for long periods of time in stressful situations, so receiving mail—even from a stranger—can brighten their day.
Decorate a site.
Before Memorial Day, it was “Decoration Day”—a holiday dedicated to decorating fallen soldiers’ graves. Nowadays, you can keep this tradition alive and well. If there is a memorial site or veteran cemetery near your area, go visit and set out flowers or other decorations on the graves. Better still, get together a group of friends or family and divide up the cemetery into different areas, to clean and decorate as many grave sites as possible. This is even a great way to get kids involved and share the true value of Memorial Day with them.
Memorial Day is an incredibly special time in our nation’s history. This weekend, do more than barbecue. Take time to truly commemorate the meaning of the holiday and celebrate the servicemen and women who have given everything to this country.