A close up of a flag

Simple Ways We Can Celebrate Memorial Day

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.

A close up of a flag

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. Memorial Day is for honoring and mourning the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country—who gave their lives to protect our freedom while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

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 day at Gettysburg 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 even when that includes social distancing. But I want to challenge you and your family to find a way next Monday the 25th, 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.”

Be There

If you are able, attend a local event or parade honoring Memorial Day. Pile on the patriotic wear and join your local citizens. This year will be different with so many gatherings canceled due to current events, so get creative.

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Pay homage

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

Museums, battlefields

Take your kids to a military museum or battlefield 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.

Respectful laundry

Tuesday night 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 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.

Memorial Day is the perfect time 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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9 replies
  1. Luisa says:

    I missed this email originally, and while my thanks are late, they are heartfelt. I appreciate your reminder of the origins of this holiday and its significance. I remember my grandmother talking often about her big brother who had died in World War 2. A park near my house, at Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia, has a beautiful tribute every year with thousands of US flags set out. This year I paid my respects from home alone. Thank you for this column.

  2. cally ross says:

    Thank you husband for his passion for preserving and honoring our US history!
    we are parents of 4 sons, all serving, or have served in the military, we don’t forget those who gave that ultimate sacrifice.

  3. Starr says:

    Sorry, I meant to thank you for posting this information. The flag washing was new to me, I will do so with care. Living in the Philadelphia area our lives were steeped in history. I was very surprised and saddened to find out, when I moved to So California as an adult, how very little was being taught there.

  4. Starr says:

    Growing up in a military family … we never took Memorial Day, July 4, or Veterans Day for granted. Our parents met in Manila athe the end of WWll. Our Mom was an Army nurse, our Dad retired from the Air Force. To this day ( 70 years) I celebrate with respect and gratitude.

  5. Brenda says:

    I didn’t know that the flag can be washed. I will do so with just a touch of my homemade detergent and on gentle setting.
    Thanks, Mary!

  6. Sylvia says:

    I was 34 days old when Pearl Harbor was attacked. My young father and my uncles signed up for
    WWII & all returned. My teen uncle was In the news for heroism during the Korean War. He just died three days ago. When my children turned 18 I said, you need to register to vote. Young men &!women are being injured or die for you to have that freedom.

  7. Red says:

    To be precise a flag is lowered to half mast. That means it goes to the top and back down to half mast.

    Enjoy your holiday.

  8. Rachael says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about all the things I take for granted. Being at home with my family, has reminded me what is truly important.
    I’m thankful that even during this time of ‘bondage’ we are still free. I’m so thankful to live in a country where we have the freedom to disagree with our leaders. I’m thankful that I can walk down the street without fear.


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