Making Memorial Day Meaningful

 {This blog post interrupts the series I’m just beginning on How to Study the Bible (i.e. tips and tools for enhancing your personal study time). I apologize if this is an inconvenience.  This message was on my heart and I felt compelled to share it with you.  I have to tell you, writing this post was an emotional experience and choosing a photo to accompany it was a difficult honor.  In no way do I wish to glorify the atrocities of war; I simply wish to honor those who have died in their service to our nation. I hope this message can bless you and your families. Next week, I’ll resume the Bible Study series.}

Francisco Diez, Photo Credit


I grew up with two Vietnam era veteran parents.  My father had been in the Air Force, and my mother had been in the Women’s Army Corp, both well before I was born.  So, the military influence in my household was strong… never rigid, but always considerate of others who have served our country.  And it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve realized how much Mom and Dad’s service affected and influenced my upbringing.  Seeing their raw, fresh emotion at the recent dedication of our state’s Vietnam Veteran monument touched my soul and made me realize that some old wounds lie just under the surface.

The same momma with the soft, gentle hands that tenderly held me as a sick child is the same woman whose delicate hands comforted and wiped the brows of dying young soldiers who offered the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  The same man who pulled my first tooth and lovingly reassured me that I would be ok is the same capable handed man who set and wired the blasted jaws of men who had stepped on land mines… comforting them and hoping they might live long enough to put his handiwork to use.

Growing up, their service was part of our family life.  They were open about all they could bring themselves to discuss.  They weren’t bitter.  They wanted us to understand.  And we did.  And as time goes on, I understand and appreciate more and more…

I can’t say that I remember every one, but I do remember several Memorial Days growing up.  My parents always took the time to explain the meaning of the day to us.  Memorial Day is the day we honor fallen soldiers.  See, in our home, Memorial Day was not a day of cook outs and the kick-off to summer.  It wasn’t a day of picnics and parties, or of hitting the sales at the mall.  It was usually a quiet day of talking, remembering, and honoring.  Between the two of them, my parents had several family members and friends who never came home from war.  Our family has suffered casualties in the American Revolution, the Civil War, and Vietnam and perhaps others that I’ve forgotten. The years we were able (due to distance), we would go and place flowers and an American flag on the graves of those who gave their lives for our freedoms.  Other years, we might go to a soldier’s monument or memorial.  But every year, we talked.  I remember understanding from a very young age that my freedoms we never free… They cost many people much, every single day.  And my freedom cost some soldiers their very lives.

And I’m so grateful for learning that.  I’m grateful to all those who have served, and I honor them with a heart full of thanks on Veteran’s Day.

And I’m thankful and indebted to those who gave their livesI honor their sacrifice with a heavy heart on Memorial Day.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, NASB)

How can you Make Memorial Day Meaningful with your family?

Here are some practical ideas for all ages:

  • Explain that Americans have certain freedoms that have been earned through wars. (And of course, some wars have been about fighting for the rights of others, outside our country.)
  • Discuss the ultimate sacrifice.  Don’t be afraid to explain this to even the very young.  (My parents taught me as a small child that some people fought in dangerous battles.  Many came home.  Some did not.  But they did it because they wanted kids like me to be free.)
  • Pray in thanksgiving for what others have offered up for you.  Pray for the family members and friends of those still hurting from their losses. (There are some mothers still living who’ve lost sons in Vietnam.  We have one in our family. And although she is very proud of her son, she still grieves his passing.)
  • Visit a battle monument or a memorial for fallen soldiers.
  • Visit a cemetery.  Place flowers and/or an American Flag on graves of those who died in war.  If you don’t know of anyone, you could see if a local cemetery has a veteran’s section.  Leaving flags there would be a kind gesture.
  • Call or send a card to someone who may be grieving the loss of a relative, friend, or battle buddy.  Just letting them know that you understand where their thoughts lie on Memorial Day can be comforting.

For older kids and adults:

  • Look at fallen soldier lists and totals from various wars (name lists are best for more recent wars).  The lists are long and it makes the reality of the sacrifice sink in.  Here is a link to casualty and death totals from all US wars.  Here is a link concerning WW1.
  • Read about the history of Memorial Day and how it has been celebrated over the years.  (I still remember my grandmother calling it “Decoration Day.”)
  • Read famous quotes and speeches given about Memorial Day.


I pray that as Americans, we would not forget our history and the legacy others have left.  God has blessed our nation so greatly in so many ways! I believe our story is worth remembering. These fallen brave soldiers are worth remembering!  Here is a  message from the website:

  “To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed in December 2000. It asks that at 3 p.m. local time all Americans “voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.”

I encourage you to go beyond a pause at 3pm and instead center much of your day on the sacrifice others have made for your freedoms.

Can you reach out to someone who may be hurting or remembering?

How do you honor the fallen and celebrate Memorial Day?


Click to Tweet these:

How can you make Memorial Day meaningful for your family? Here are some ideas. @HeartfeltByAli #MemorialDay

Memorial Day is the day we honor fallen soldiers. They are worth remembering! @HeartfeltByAli #MemorialDay

A challenge to center Memorial Day on those who’ve secured your freedoms.  @HeartfeltByAli #MemorialDay


9 thoughts on “Making Memorial Day Meaningful

  1. Thank you for this post, Ali. For all of our troops who might read this, Thank you. Whether you were in a “war zone” or not, your service was/is important to ALL Americans. And for all the Vietnam Vets, “Welcome Home, Brother”…

  2. I am a War Baby from WW2. My mother & I deserted and her left to raise me. I thankfully was born into a large loving family. As the war wound down in urope & Africa.the soldier who was to.become the most important person in my life. asked my mother to come with me to America be married and giving me his name. I have a very special reason to hold in honor all those who have served and protected us. One of the first things I remember of America. Is going down tote railroaf station to watch when the troops returning home to Fort Hood came. Through. The American flag was always given upmost honor

  3. Pingback: Don’t forget who, what, or why! (Psalms 59:11) | Walk with Me

  4. Wonderful post, Ali….and Yes, I am proud to have served, and proud to have pulled that first tooth (and a whole lot more)! Thank you for highlighting what Memorial Day is really all about!

  5. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, NASB) is what my cousin Layton Smith brought to mind when our cousin James Warren Smith was KIA in Vietnam. Warren was killed while saving the life of another soldier. We have two family names on the Vietnam Wall. We thank God that there are not more names because so many served! God was watching over our family.

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