Did you know that Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day? Established May 30, 1868, people commemorated nearly 500,000 fallen Civil War soldiers by decorating their graves with flags, wreaths, and flowers.

Since then, the United States has lost nearly 700,000 additional soldiers in wars and conflicts, which is roughly the population of Detroit, MI. With so many lives lost, most of us likely have a connection to someone who deserves to be honored annually on the last Monday in May. By raising our flags, visiting gravesites, and reaching out to those who have lost loved ones, we can honor those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy.

Flying the Stars and Stripes

Flying our flags on Memorial Day is unlike other holidays, such as Independence Day. Out of respect for those who have passed away, American flags are supposed to be flown at half-staff until noon and then raised to full-staff until sundown. Citizens across the country are encouraged to participate by raising flags in their communities and homes.

Visiting Grave Sites

Tradition dictates that we visit the gravesites of individuals who lost their lives during military service. The Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, provides etiquette guidelines that apply to local cemeteries, including speaking quietly, leaving pets at home, and respecting monuments and graves. Remembering these tips will help everyone to treat the cemeteries with the reverence they deserve.

Sending a Letter

Even in the digital age, Americans purchase 6.9 billion greeting cards every year. With so many people still enjoying the process of sending and receiving mail, there’s a good chance your family and friends will, too. If you have someone in your life who has lost an enlisted loved one, take the time to send them a card to let them know you are thinking about them.

Memorial Day can be difficult for those who had people in their lives pass away in the service of America’s armed forces. By flying your flag, visiting cemeteries, and sending personal messages through the mail, you can respectfully honor those who died in service to our country.