A few years ago, there was a viral Facebook post about a woman getting a haircut before Memorial Day weekend. She had lost her husband in a Navy helicopter crash months prior. He died on deployment, never having met their youngest son. So, when the smiling receptionist wished her a “Happy Memorial Day” after she had buried her spouse, the words cut extra deep.
Before you tag every veteran and service member on Facebook and wish them a Happy Memorial Day, remember that, in this community, Memorial Day means something much, much bigger than the start of summer. The day feels fraught with memories of those we’ve lost, mixed with gratitude for the times we’ve had.
While it is true that every day is Memorial Day for the families of the fallen, they aren’t asking that you stay inside and wallow.
But we do owe it to them to pause. Reflect. Remember. Honor.
Gold Star wife Krista Simpson Anderson, who lost her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Michael Harrison Simpson, in Afghanistan in 2013, said, “I get upset when people scold others for enjoying the weekend or having BBQs. What do you think our service members did before they died? Mike sure did enjoy his family and friends. What better way to honor them than to be surrounded by family and friends living. But we are also so grateful for your pause and reflection as you celebrate our heroes and the lives that they lived.”
Krista Anderson and her sons pose for a photo in 2014.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Butler)
Memorial Day and Veterans Day are different holidays with unique purposes — and unique ways to honor each.
How to honor Veterans Day
Veterans Day is the day to tag all your people, posting photos with your brother in uniform or the selfie with your bestie before he or she deployed. Veterans Day celebrates the living who served our country. Offer veterans a discount at your business. Call your favorite vet on the phone and thank him or her for their service. Attend a parade. Celebrate a veteran.
How to honor Memorial Day
Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring every single man and woman who has died for our freedoms — men and women who were mommies and daddies, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, patriots, incredible Americans and really, really great friends.
The United States Marine Band on Memorial Day.
(Photo by Spc. Cody W. Torkelson)
You want to honor and celebrate patriotism and the military this Memorial Day? Then you have to honor the complicated feelings surrounding it. Express your knowledge that this day is about remembrance.
Attend a memorial service at a national cemetery. Run or walk a mile to benefit the non-profit Krista Anderson started in memory of her husband, and then pledge your mile for wear blue: run to remember.
Talk to your kids about sacrifice, about service and about what this three-day weekend really means. Observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. Monday with a minute of silence.
And then, like Krista said, live.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.