Memorial Day weekend is among us, with Monday marking the formal holiday we’ve come to know as the beginning of summer. Millions of Americans will celebrate this weekend with barbecues, pool parties, and plenty of red, white, and blue– but what true meaning is this holiday intended to commemorate?
Sorry, summer– it’s not you.
Memorial Day is intended to be celebrated as a day of remembrance for U.S. soldiers who died in military service. Dating back to its first observation in 1868 when flowers were placed on graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, it later evolved into a day of honor for Americans who’d died in any war. Known as “Decoration Day”until its declaration as a national holiday in 1971, it was traditionally observed on May 30th each year. Now it is celebrated on the last Monday in May to create the three-day weekend we thoughtfully dub “Memorial Day weekend.”
Around Memorial Day, Veterans of Foreign Wars members and American Legion Auxiliary volunteers distribute red poppies in exchange for donations to programs that aid disabled veterans. This tradition began after World War I and was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Field” which described the wild red poppies growing on a Belgian battlefield. Wearing a red poppy soon became tradition in memory of the sacrifices of war. Another tradition is to fly American flags at half-staff in memory, then have the living raise them at noon as a symbol of carrying on.
Sometime since it was nationally declared a holiday, the day of remembrance shifted from a day of somber reflection to a 3-day weekend of pre-summer fun in the sun, creating an observance of the holiday that’s starkly differently than its originators intended. However, there are plenty of well-intentioned organizations and non-profits in America dedicated to serving and remembering our veterans not just on Memorial Day, but every day. Carry The Load is one of these organizations. Founded by two war-veteran Navy SEALS, Carry The Load is a non-profit dedicated to providing active, meaningful ways to honor and celebrate the sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes. It originally began as a mission to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day, but has since evolved into a full-scope non-profit focusing on providing Americans with an active way to honor and celebrate our nation’s heroes by connecting them to the sacrifices they’ve made.
To learn more about Carry The Load or to donate to the mission, click here.