How To Celebrate Memorial Day & Pay Tribute To American Service Members Respectfully

Memorial Day has far more meaning than being a fun three-day weekend.

Last updated on May 27, 2023

Hispanic American Female Soldier in uniform saluting in front of American flags Mie Ahmt / Shutterstock

Memorial Day has become a time to gather with friends and family, host a barbecue with red, white and blue decorations, and party in honor of those who served our country.

Why do we celebrate Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is a federal holiday that honors and mourns the military personnel that died while serving with the United States Armed Forces.

It can be traced back to the end of the Civil War in 1865 when communities in both the North and the South began an annual tradition of decorating the mass graves in which they had buried their dead soldiers.


This tradition of visiting military graves on the last Monday in May has been carried on throughout the numerous wars and battles America has fought in.

RELATED: 5 Life Lessons We Can Learn From Our Veterans, In Honor Of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is often celebrated by gathering to place wreaths and flowers on the graves and memorials of the military dead.


We should use this time to reflect on the lives lost through the years and honor the service members who are still with us. That's what Memorial Day is truly about.

What is the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day?

Memorial Day is meant to honor the military personnel who have lost their lives serving the nation. It's a mournful occasion where Americans can remember the sacrifices made by the people who help to secure our comfort and safety. Veterans Day was created as a day to honor all military veterans, both deceased and still living.

It's important to remember that there's no apostrophe in Veterans Day, because the day doesn't belong to veterans, but is meant to celebrate their service.

The biggest difference is that Memorial Day celebrates members of the military who've died while serving their country, and Veterans Day is for honoring former military personnel who are currently living.


How to Celebrate Memorial Day Respectfully

Many veterans might find themselves alone with minimal support, and the families of troops deployed abroad might need a little extra help. These are the people at the core of this holiday, and showing them our appreciation makes all the difference.

You can appreciate our deceased military service members and still grill up a Memorial Day feast to celebrate. But support has never been easier, and it comes in many shapes and forms, not just financial!

To ensure our brave service people aren't forgotten this year, here are 6 ways you can help out the military, their families, and veterans respectfully.

1. Check in with veterans and service people.

Whether it’s a relative, a neighbor, or an old friend, everyone needs someone to talk to. Offering a listening ear in person or even through the phone will let them know you’re here for them.


Military families and injured veterans might be struggling to access essential resources that they might need. So, ask them if they need anything before you head out to stock up for your Memorial Day grill.

Even taking a couple of minutes to say, “Thank you for your service” could make all the difference in someone’s day — and it costs nothing. Mention it in person with a wave, or send them a text or post a thank you note to brighten their day.

2. Send a care package.

If someone close to you is on active duty, consider sending them a little box of goodies as a way of showing your love.

If there’s one thing we’ve all realized from quarantine, it’s that it's hard to spend long periods of time away from loved ones. Military members will appreciate a package from home.


Alternatively, SupportOurTroops offers a care package service to keep soldiers supplied with essential items.

RELATED: 3 Things All Military Families Can Do When Loving Your Soldier Gets Tough

3. Learn about Veteran Support Services.

Educating ourselves about what service people go through and how it impacts them helps us to respect them — not just on Memorial Day, but every day.

The Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) is working hard to support service people in need, providing food and shelter to those who suffer most during difficult times.

If you can make a financial contribution to these efforts, please consider doing so. Otherwise, you can contact your local branch to see how you can lend a helping hand.


Other organizations like the Veterans Crisis Line offer guidance on how to protect the mental health of our beloved veterans.

4. Try a CrossFit Hero Workout.

Unless you're a service person, it's impossible to understand fully what these brave Americans go through. But honoring a fallen soldier by trying out their workout regimen is a healthy and free way to get insight into their physical and mental endurance.

CrossFit Hero Workouts are submitted by the families and loved ones of soldiers who died for their country. And they can be performed as an act of honor.

5. Observe the Moment of Remembrance.

Even though Memorial Day parades take up the bulk of the public spectacle, the annual Moment of Remembrance also takes place and should be observed from wherever you are.


One minute of silence at 3 PM local time allows us to take a moment to commemorate the lives lost during wars, and the freedom these lives have granted us.

Make sure to look into events hosted in your area.

6. Support veteran art.

In addition to providing service for our country, so many veterans have given us literature and art to express their experiences.


The Veteran Art Movement provides a platform for artists who once served to showcase their work. Check out this artist network to purchase something and support these talented veterans.

Many veterans have also documented their lives in literary forms, so consider supporting a writer who served in the military. You might just learn a thing or two about what service members really go through, and you could walk away with a fuller appreciation of that Memorial Day burger you're about to scarf down.

RELATED: 2 Things You Can Do To Help Military Families Every. Single. Day.

Alice Kelly is YourTango’s Deputy News and Entertainment Editor. Based in Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest.