ABOVE PHOTO: Tourists and War Veterans and guardians of Honor Flight nonprofit organization in Vietnam Women Memorial in the National Mall. Devoted to nurses in the Vietnam War. (Roman Babakin / Shutterstock.com)
“All gave some. Some gave all.” You likely hear that phrase around Memorial Day every year, but do you know its origin? Or what Memorial Day is supposed to mean to the veterans who gave some, the survivors of those who gave all, and the Americans who enjoy continued freedom because of those sacrifices?
Americans, it seems, do understand the importance of Memorial Day. A 2015 poll by Rasmussen Reports found 52 percent of those polled viewed Memorial Day as one of the nation’s most important holidays, while 42 percent saw it as at least somewhat important.
When Americans first began observing the day in the late 1860s, they were pausing to remember the more than half a million Americans who had died in the then-recently ended Civil War. Today, Memorial Day observances not only remember the sacrifice of the deceased who gave all, but also the thousands of living veterans, many of whom are wounded in body, mind or both.
“Amid the celebrations marking the unofficial start of the summer season, it can be difficult to find meaningful ways to observe Memorial Day,” says Jeff Roy, chairman of the board of the Purple Heart Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides counseling, support and advocacy for Purple Heart recipients, and raises funds for programs that support veterans and their families. “But Americans truly do want to express their gratitude to veterans for their many sacrifices. Fortunately, there are many ways they can help make a difference for veterans.”
Here are some meaningful ways you can show your support for veterans this Memorial Day:
• Help provide a service dog to a veteran with physical disabilities or PTSD. The National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS) provides service dogs for free to qualifying veterans. You can help by making an online donation, sponsor a “doggie dorm” for service dogs in training, raise a puppy who will become a service dog, or become a volunteer. Visit the organization’s website at www.neads.org to learn more.
• Donate to the Purple Heart Foundation’s scholarship program, which provides financial support to Purple Heart recipients and their families for college-related expenses like tuition, books, and room and board.
• Instead of spending the day indulging in your own cookout, contact the local veterans’ home or veterans’ hospital and volunteer there for the day. Or, you can simply take an hour or two to visit with the residents there and thank them for their service.
• Visit the local cemetery and place flags or flowers on the graves of veterans. Contact the cemetery first for their visiting guidelines and to learn where the veterans section is located – many cemeteries have special sections set aside for veterans.
• Help ensure veterans make the most of the services available to them. Donate to the Purple Heart Foundation’s National Service Officers Program, which helps pay to place service officers in Veterans Administration facilities across the country. These officers are specially trained to help veterans access the many benefits, programs and services available to them.
• If your community sponsors a Memorial Day parade, attending is a great way to show your appreciation and support for veterans – but you can do even more. Prior to the event, contact the parade organizers and find out what veterans groups will be marching in the parade. Offer to donate water, snacks or anything else the veterans may need to make their walk easier and more enjoyable.
• Pick up the phone and call the veterans in your life – almost everyone knows at least one person who has served in the military. Perhaps your grandfather served in World War II, the Korean War or Vietnam. You may know someone who has recently returned from serving in the Global War on Terror. Take some time to let those people know you’re thinking of them, and appreciate their service.
• Observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30. Established by Congress, the one-minute observance is an chance for all Americans to pause in the middle of their summer celebrations to remember the sacrifices of the nation’s veterans.
From simple and small to noble and industrious, it’s possible to find many meaningful ways to honor all who gave some and the some who gave all. And as for that now-famous phrase – it was first uttered by Howard William Osterkamp of Dent, Ohio, a Korean War veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart.