Even though there’s something inherently sad about a holiday that exists to remember and honor those who have died, I still end up having a good time. While reflecting on the joy this day has brought me over the years I was struck by a bit of guilt. It drove me to think more about what I was doing on this day. Was I taking it seriously? Was I honoring anyone? Should these BBQs and camping trips go on?
Every year on the final Monday of May we’re all given the opportunity to honor the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. For many of us this day includes an element of somber reflection; but, then for most Americans, the holiday becomes a three-day celebration and, upon further reflection, I think that’s exactly the way it should be. You just gotta do it the right way for you.
I’ve always believed that one of the best ways to honor those who have died for our freedom is to live free, and I believe that we can show a grateful heart by accepting the gift of freedom they’ve provided us. I also believe that with just a little planning we can both honor the sacrifice of these brave men and women as well as celebrate the freedom they’ve delivered.
Here are some ideas I came up with to do both.
Raise Your Flag - Paddle Your Board
A simple thing that all of us can do. Raise your flags momentarily to the top and then lower them to half-mast until noon. Also, you might want to fly the POW/MIA Flag if you have one.
We do this for several days before and after Memorial Day as a way to quietly remember as we go through our daily routine. It’s simple and impactful.
Once you get the flag up and perhaps have told the kids a story, grab your paddle boards and get on the water. My family loves doing this, as it connects us to the seal and serves as a time to tell some stories of my time in the SEAL Teams and reflect on some good friends lost. A relaxing activity that anyone can do anywhere there is water.
Visit a Memorial - Go For a Hike
If you can make it out to Washington, D.C., I highly recommend it. If not, look for a local memorial in your area to visit. Once you’re done at the memorial, find a nearby hiking trail and get on it.
Being outdoors is a way of life for combatants in the military and getting on the trail is a great to way reflect and try to put yourself in their shoes. Maybe consider hitting the same trail every year and leave a “Legacy Caching” item behind to find the following year.
Traditions like this can become very meaningful.
Learn Where You Came From - BBQ Meat
One way or another, we’re all tied to the actions of military members of our past. Use part of the Memorial Day weekend to learn about a family member’s military history. If you don’t have anyone in your family, find a local vet. They have some game changing stories to tell.
For some reason, when I think of family, I think of BBQ. Because a lot of people have older generations of war fighters in their family they use this weekend as a time to reunite and that often leads to some epic BBQs.
Go Camping and Watch “All Quiet on the Western Front”
There are two things that inspire me most: the outdoors and movies. Take the family camping, but before you go, download “All Quiet on the Western Front”, or your favorite patriotic movie, and bring it out in the field with you.
I know bringing technology with you outdoors can seem counter intuitive, but I’ve grown to love the contrast of it. Some of the most memorable moments of my life come from watching a movie on my iPhone with my kids while on a backpacking trip.
Make Me This Promise
Whatever you end up doing, there’s one thing I’d like to ask of you. In 2000, Congress created the National Moment to give us all the opportunity to be sure and make Memorial Day not just about stuffing our faces with burgers and dogs. At 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, we are all given the opportunity to stop what we’re doing and pause for a single minute of silence to remember our fallen.
If that’s a commitment you’re willing to make, please simply post in the comment section, “I will remember.” Let’s support each other in making this Memorial Day count!
About Eric Davis
Eric Davis served our country as a U.S. Navy SEAL and decorated veteran of the Global War on Terror. Eric has been recognized as one of the premier sniper instructors in the U.S. military and has served as a Master Training Specialist at the SEAL sniper school. Davis is also the host of The Loadout Room, author at SOFREP, a GovX "Insider" and founder of the human performance company Average Frog. Follow him, and all his exploits, on Twitter @EricDavis215