The unofficial first weekend of summer in the United States, celebrated with BBQ’s, pool and beach parties, and in a myriad of other ways, is Memorial Day weekend. Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the US and often celebrated with parades, placing flags at graves, and other means of remembrance. Not to be confused with Armed Forces Day, which celebrates those who are serving, or with Veterans Day, which Memorial Day is to commemorate those who gave their lives while serving the nation in military forces.
History of Memorial Day
The first observance and where the first observance took place is claimed by several cities, but nationally, it was on May 30, 1868. In the beginning, it was known as Decoration Day to honor the soldiers who had died in the Civil War, which finally ended in 1865. New York was the first state to mark the day as a holiday in 1873, and by 1890 every Union state had adopted it. In 1971, US Congress officially named the day Memorial Day and changed the observance to the last Monday in May.
Ways to Honor the Anniversary in the Workplace
The day is more somber than other times of true celebration, but we can bring attention in meaningful ways. Here are a few ideas:
- Ask if any employee has a story that they are willing to share. Stories can help bring people together.
- Ask a veteran to give a talk to share their own stories.
- Volunteer at a memorial cemetery. Many cemeteries will place flags on grave markers and need those flags picked up later.
- As a group, attend a local community event.
- Take time in May to specifically review your company policies and practices of helping veterans get hired, supporting your company veterans, military service members and military families, and other means of support for the US Armed Forces.
- Decorate the building with patriotic themes and dress patriotically for the day.
- Order some Poppies for the office. The flower is often associated with Memorial Day.
There are many ways we can celebrate Memorial Day beyond the BBQ or a day at the beach. Taking some time to think about and thank those who gave their lives for the nation so current generations can live with freedoms, opportunities, and comforts is a small token. Giving thanks, saying words of appreciation, honoring others, and doing so in the community, can be powerful and deeply human. Doing some of this at work can make for a better workplace.
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