Memorial Day 2020: Making It Meaningful One Family at a Time

Julaine Appling

2020 | Week of May 18 | Radio Transcript #1360

Do you have plans made for next Monday, May 25? I hope you do. It’s Memorial Day. And that should mean some special planning.

I realize that in most communities in The Badger State Memorial Day won’t be commemorated as it has been for decades. Already in my community we’ve been told there will be no parade. No special service at the bridge with wreaths being thrown into the river while we all stand silently listening to Taps being played and “Sleep, Soldier Boy, Sleep” solemnly sung.  No service at Veterans’ Park, no recitation of the Gettsyburg Address, no laying of the wreaths representing each branch of the military.  I’ll miss all of those activities, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give Memorial Day and what and who it represents its just due.

For purposes of this commentary, I’m going to focus on families because I am more convinced today than I have ever been that families are the foundation of every society and the strength of a church, a community, a state, and a nation is directly related to the strength of its most valuable natural resource—married dad and mom families. It’s within those family units that the best teaching always takes place—and days such as Memorial Day provide great opportunities to ensure the next generation understands the price that’s been paid to secure our freedom.

With our state opening up again after two months of being pretty much shut down because of COVID-19, I’m sure families, including now extended families, are eager to spend time together, especially as the weather improves.  Having a cookout, playing games together, sitting around talking and catching up are certainly appropriate. But Memorial Day needs to be much more than special sales and a kick-off to summer. And making it more than that when we don’t have community events that fill that void, requires some planning.

The key is being intentional and inclusive.  If kids are involved, and I sincerely hope they are, include everyone.  Assign someone to give a kid-friendly explanation of Memorial Day, including why veterans are often seen handing out fake poppies and raising money for veterans’ groups during Memorial Day weekend. If you don’t know, then it’s time for some Internet research! Make sure to explain how Memorial Day is different from Veterans’ Day in November.

If you have a veteran in your family, give him or her some time to talk with everyone paying attention. No doubt, if this person say live action, he or she will have lost fellow soldiers or sailors and will have a unique perspective on Memorial Day. If you need to borrow a veteran’s story, many are available online.

Other ideas include some patriotic chalk art, complete with American flags and thank you messages to our veterans.  Fly Old Glory at your house and explain why you are flying it on Memorial Day. In case you didn’t realize it, there is a special flag etiquette for flying the flag on Memorial Day. It should be flown at half-mast from sunrise to noon and then at full mast for the rest of the holiday. Since most family gatherings start around or after noon, maybe put the flag up with the entire family and make it a bit of a ceremony—including the Pledge of Allegiance. By the way, this is an excellent opportunity to remind young and old alike about flag etiquette. A flag-folding demonstration is always intriguing for kids.

Plan ahead to have the entire family participate in the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m.  Officially this is considered a “moment of silence,” but for Christians, this is a wonderful opportunity after the minute of silence to pray together and thank God for those who have given their lives to secure our freedoms and our way of life.

If at all possible, visit a local cemetery and include the kids who are old enough.  You might find that a veterans’ group has gone through and put American flags on all the graves where a veteran is buried. Consider buying some red carnations ahead of time and giving each family member several to put on the graves of these veterans. As you go through the cemetery, point out the various wars represented by the veterans—that in itself is an excellent history lesson for all ages.

Making Memorial Day special because of what it represents is best done by families. With some purposeful planning, the day can be filled with good food, awesome fun and family time, as well as with poignant activities that remind us someone has paid the price so we could enjoy and commemorate Memorial Day each year.

This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

Julaine Appling has taught on the junior high, high school, and college levels, and for five years was the administrator of a private school. In 1998 she was asked to become the Executive Director of Wisconsin Family Council, where her mission is to advance Judeo-Christian principles and values in Wisconsin by strengthening, preserving, and promoting marriage, family, life and liberty. In addition to regularly being interviewed for Wisconsin television, radio, and newspapers, she is the host of "Wisconsin Family Connection," aired weekly on almost 50 radio stations in Wisconsin including the VCY America radio network.

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