For many Americans, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer — local pools open, state parks welcome campers and hikers, and it’s time to break out the summer fashions. But for many Americans, veterans and their loved ones, the day has a much greater significance. It’s a time to remember veterans who have served our country. Here are a few ways to help celebrate this holiday with the senior veterans in your life.
Fly the Flag
If you’re a caregiver for a veteran at home, the simplest thing you can do is display the American flag outside your home. Be sure to follow proper protocols for handling the flag, including not allowing it to touch the ground and making sure to display the stars at the top and not at the bottom — an upside down flag has been traditionally been used as a distress signal.
Don’t Rain on the Parade
Attend the local Memorial Day parade if possible. Plan ahead to get a good spot and have lawn chairs on hand so your loved one can rest. (Consider not only a good view, but nearby public restrooms.) One tradition that many younger people are unaware of is the importance of civilians standing up in respect and placing their right hands over their hearts when the flag goes by during a parade. This sign of respect is very important to veterans, so be sure to honor that tradition when you’re attending any parade with or without one. Make sure to have your own small flags on hand to wave during the festivities.
In Good Company
Lots of veterans enjoy spending time with other veterans, reminiscing or even just striking up a good card game. Check with local organizations such as the American Legion or the VFW to see what activities they have going on, such as barbecues, dinners, or holiday events. if your loved one is not already a member of one of these organizations, this is a great time to get signed up for year-round camaraderie. And if you’re the descendant of a veteran, you can join one of the auxiliary groups for a little camaraderie of your own.
Taking the Celebration to Them
For those veterans who can’t get to a public parade or a local veterans club, you can take the celebration to them. Whether you have family members at home or in a nursing facility, plan a celebration of the holiday with mementos of their service, such as photos or even a scrapbook to present as a gift. You can sing patriotic songs or play a classic war film such as The Eagle Has Landed or The Guns of Navarone.
If the veteran in your family is in a nursing facility, consider creating a volunteer-based celebration for all the veterans in the facility. Many homes already plan a cookout to celebrate, but you could volunteer to bring cupcakes or another snack decorated with miniature flags (just check with the staff before bringing in any sweet treats). Create a mini parade with friends, other volunteers, and even staff participation, and have veterans share stories about their time serving their country.
Everyone loves the days of summer that traditionally start after Memorial Day, but don’t forget the real reason for this celebration, and the honor and respect our veterans deserve on this and every day.