For many, Memorial Day has pretty much morphed from a day of remembrance to a much anticipated three-day weekend with exciting outdoor events that officially welcome the start of summer. But it’s more than that. In fact, it’s not really about a big blowout holiday weekend at all. It’s about remembering our history and those who’ve gone before.

U.S. history was not something stressed or even talked about in my family growing up. I possessed a general timeline of events but that was about it.

All of that changed for me when I married a man for whom our American history is more than a few facts memorized to get past a final exam.

My husband Harold lives and breathes our nation’s history. He planned our honeymoon around visits to Revolutionary War and Civil War battlefields, culminating with an all-day visit to Gettysburg National Military Park.

I was gobsmacked by what I didn’t know. Such an emotionally packed tour I’d never experienced. I learned more that day than I’d learned about our nation’s history in my 16 years of formal education.

That so many gave their lives to preserve this republic filled me with a deep sense of gratitude I’d not known. To be there—to see this battlefield and to visualize what happened was nearly too much to take in.

That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.

– President Abraham Lincoln

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with relaxing with friends and family and celebrating the arrival of summer. But I want to challenge you and your family to find a way today that you can pay homage to those who have given their lives for the sake of our country and our freedoms. I have a few suggestions.

Fly the flag. To be displayed properly on Memorial Day, the American flag should be at half-staff until noon. As the US Memorial Day website puts it, “The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.”

Attend a local event or parade honoring Memorial Day. Pile on the patriotic wear and join your local citizens.

Visit a cemetery or decorate graves. Or walk the grounds quietly and pray.

Take your kids to a military museum or battlefield, if not today soon. Teach them about the sacrifices made by so many. Instill in them a respect for the men and women who volunteer to serve their country in the armed forces—knowing they may be called on to make the ultimate sacrifice.

One last thing. Tonight as you take down your flag, consider giving it a good wash. Yes, this is allowed by the official rules that guide us in the use, care, and keeping of our nation’s flag.

Don’t throw the flag on the floor or into a clothes hamper. Respectfully, place it carefully in the washer as the only item in the load, or wash it by hand in a basin or other vessel. Most U.S. flags these days are made of polyester and cotton blend, so a warm cycle with your regular detergent is sufficient. Once washed, hang it to dry in an area where it will be elevated and not touching the ground.

To store a modern-day flag, use a long cardboard shipping tube or PVC round tube to roll up the flag. Secure with cotton string and store covered with a plain cotton sheet to keep away dust. This will prevent wrinkles and keep the flag ready to use.

It’s a good day to renew our respect, honor, and gratitude for those who’ve given their lives to secure and protect our freedom—and for the flag which symbolizes that freedom.

God bless America!

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