This Memorial Day, Help Your Employees Remember What It’s All About

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For too many of us, Memorial Day signifies nothing more than the unofficial beginning of summer. Lost amidst the BBQ condiments is the true meaning of the holiday, which was established to honor our brave servicemen and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Allegedly, Congress was moved to take action when children touring Washington D.C. were asked about the significance of Memorial Day and responded, “That’s the day the pool opens.”

The National Moment of Remembrance Act was passed in 2000 as a way of helping us honor America’s fallen heroes. For one minute on each Memorial Day, we’re asked to stop everything to pay our respects to the men and women who died in service for our country, especially those who died in battle. The time of 3pm was chosen because it’s likely when Americans are most enjoying the freedom made possible by those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Many of us aren’t aware of this as we sun ourselves on a beach blanket, but at 3pm on Memorial Day trains will blow their whistles; “Taps” will play throughout the nation; almost 500,000 Major League Baseball fans will pause for a moment of silence; cars will drive with their headlights on; and Americans everywhere will wave flags.

What can company leaders do to highlight the true meaning of Memorial Day? Above all, find ways to give back to organizations that support servicemen and women, veterans and military families, whether through direct volunteering, pro bono service or a workplace giving campaign.

On Memorial Day, leadership expert Peter DeMarco also suggests the following:  

  1. Follow the norms of the Department of Veterans Affairs for flying the American flag on Memorial Day at half-staff until noon. Then “briskly” raise the flag to the top of the staff until sunset. Remove any of your company’s branding or other types of flags so that the American flag is given a dignified presence.

  2. Honor the sacrifice of those employees who have lost loved ones in the service, or even those who have loved ones in the service now. Give all employees the opportunity to bring in and post pictures of their deceased grandparents, parents, siblings or other relatives who served.

  3. Write a letter to your employees explaining your own thoughts about what Memorial Day means to you and reminding them of the company’s gratitude to our fallen patriots.

  4. If your organization is closed on Memorial Day, encourage your employees to use their day off to participate in Memorial Day observances in their town or Washington D.C. Memorial Day is for all citizens and guests regardless of their place of origin.

  5. If your organization is open on Memorial Day, consider posting beautiful pictures of the cemeteries or graves of our deceased veterans to bring a sense of the ultimate sacrifice given by the few for the many. Remind your employees and customers around the globe of the deep sacrifice our nation has made for their freedoms and security. American service men and women are buried in 25 military cemeteries in 16 foreign countries. Post on your company’s website or send pictures via email or Twitter of such beautiful resting places as Lorraine American Cemetery near St. Avold, France, the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery near Nettuno, Italy, and the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.

  6. Intensify your own memory as a leader by taking time to lay flowers and flags on the graves of deceased veterans at your local cemetery or memorial. Share the experience. Take your child or young relative to join you. Hear the sounds of the rifles as the honor guard salutes the dead.

  7. Support Gold Star families. The first Medal of Honor awarded by President Obama was posthumously presented to the parents of SFC Jared Monti. Paul Monti, his father, spent years keeping the memory of his son alive through his Operation Flags for Vets Memorial Day tribute. The hit song, I Drive Your Truck, is based on Paul’s devotion to Jared’s memory.

  8. Promote veterans outreach in your community. The City of San Antonio, USAA insurance company and a host of other organizations announced this month that they had effectively ended veterans’ homelessness in their beautiful city.

  9. Remember that many of our living war veterans struggle still live with the loss of their comrades. Pray for them as well on this sacred day. And remember those warriors missing in action, over 83,000 who do not have a grave to be tended.

Another way to drive home the meaning of Memorial Day is by helping the little people at your home participate. Engaging your kids in the significance of Memorial Day can start by including them in your own observation. Military.com suggests the following ideas:

  • Take cookies, books, or movies to a nearby Veteran's hospital.

  • Go to a Memorial Day parade. To find one near you visit vetfriends.com. Or, watch the National Memorial Day Parade on television.

  • This link provides kids an online scavenger hunt that helps them learn about the history of Memorial Day.

  • Teach your children about medals of honor. You can print a Medal of Honor coloring book and learn the history behind our brave Soldiers.

  • Watch a movie and learn some history about famous battles of the past. The History Channel and The Military Channel have many shows that might fit this bill.

  • Visit enchantedlearning.com and find Memorial Day coloring pages, craft projects, word searches, quizzes and more.

  • Have your children create a card or picture to be sent overseas to a Soldier currently at war.

This Memorial Day, champion the true meaning of the holiday. Take steps to help the people around you come together and share our pride, recognition and service for those who have served our country so well.

Ryan Scott