Simple Ideas to Get Involved This Memorial Day
The national holiday we now know as Memorial Day started out in the late 1860s as “Decoration Day,” a remembrance of fallen Civil War soldiers held on May 30. Many years and many wars later, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 established the observance as the last Monday in May. The law, which went into effect in 1971, also declared Memorial Day as a federal holiday.
Since its earliest days, Memorial Day observations have included parades, programs, and decoration of veterans’ gravesites to commemorate deceased veterans. Who better to head up these events than deathcare professionals?
If you’re not already involved in your community’s Memorial Day festivities, here are some ideas to help you honor with grace and dignity those who made the ultimate sacrifice, demonstrate your prowess at memorialization, and, as a bonus, gain some positive PR.
Form partnerships with veterans organizations
In 2018, the median age of veterans was 65. That means that members of veterans organizations like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and AMVETS may not be physically able or have a large enough membership to do as much as they’d like. Putting your resources — whether that’s manpower, marketing, vehicles, facilities, or supplies like chairs or tents — behind their Memorial Day efforts once or as part of an ongoing relationship is a win-win-win.
Distribute flags or mementos for the community’s use
You don’t have to be a funeral home with an attached cemetery to serve as a distribution point for Memorial Day grave decoration items. Vase Funeral Home in Rock Springs, Wyoming is offering a Memorial Day keepsake on a first come, first serve basis to anyone who stops by for one. In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, the chief veterans affairs officer has already distributed 180,000 small American flags to be placed on veterans’ graves; this is a service that could easily be taken over (or implemented) by a local funeral home or crematory.
Head up grave decoration efforts
If you do manage a cemetery — or, heck, even if you don’t — why not lead the charge in coordinating the placement of flags or wreaths on the graves of your community’s veterans in advance of Memorial Day observations. Provide the supplies, but go further by managing the recruitment of local scout troops, civic organizations, college students, or other groups, or just set up a volunteer sign-up form on your website.
If you’re facing the staffing shortages that are plaguing deathcare organizations at the moment, you might not have the people or the free time necessary to head up a commemoration event or effort. In those cases, consider lending your organization’s name — and of course, your funds — as the sponsor of a local Memorial Day parade or ceremony. You’ll make a positive impression even if you can’t be personally present.
Leverage your network
Some of the most poignant and meaningful Memorial Day commemorations involve current or former members of the military and/or traditional military memorialization music like Taps sounded by a professional bugler or bagpiper. As a funeral professional, your Rolodex (a dated term, I know, but I think you get it) certainly includes contact information for those individuals who attend or perform at the funerals of veterans. Why not serve as the point person to assemble the honor guard, musicians, vocalists, and speakers for your area’s observance? It’s a great time to show off your well-honed organizational and leadership skills.
Serve as a speaker
In Coshocton, Ohio, the primary guest speaker at the community’s annual Memorial Day service this year will be Jessica Paisley of Given-Dawson-Paisley Funeral Home. You or a member of your team would be an excellent addition to any memorialization event with a presentation on memorialization, the history or meaning of Memorial Day, military funeral traditions, or a host of other relevant topics.
As much as you probably like to remain politically neutral (for good reason), getting involved in the promotion or support of a bill providing proper treatment of deceased veterans shouldn’t backfire. For example, a New York senator just introduced a bill that required counties and the city of New York to work with veterans’ organizations to provide for the burial of a veteran whose remains are unclaimed. The bill unanimously passed on May 20 — just ahead of Memorial Day 2022. Publicly showing your support of this type of legislation on your website’s blog and social media, public meetings with legislators, or through interviews with local media is a powerful and positive way to support your community’s veterans and their loved ones.
Offer up your space
If your funeral home or crematory includes a multi-functional event space, this could be the perfect spot for your community’s Memorial Day program. Keeping in mind that traipsing through a park or cemetery might be difficult for aging veterans, your event space may be an accessible, recognizable, and comfortable alternative for programs or a simple observation of the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day meant to unify Americans in their remembrances of our fallen heroes. Another option might be to use your funeral home or crematory’s parking area as the congregation point for your town’s Memorial Day parade, as Edwards Funeral Home of Skowhegan, Maine is doing this year.
No matter how you get involved, stepping up to sponsor, lead, or participate in Memorial Day observations in your community is a positive way to promote your facility’s name and enhance your reputation as a go-to resource for all things death-related. There’s still time to pull off a few of these ideas — if you get started right now!