There are a number of different volunteer opportunities during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even Earth Day. However, many people forget that holidays are more than just a weekend to cook out and spend time with family. Holidays like Memorial Day also represent a great opportunity to give back through volunteer opportunities.
What Is Memorial Day?
Unlike Veterans Day, on which we celebrate the men and women who have served or are serving in the military, Memorial Day honors those who lost their lives serving our country. As things stand, 1.1 million members of the armed services have made this ultimate sacrifice.
Memorial Day Volunteer Opportunities
Memorial Day represents a great opportunity to practice financial literacy by giving some of the money you’ve accrued through earning, saving, and investing. Consider using the last Monday of May to invest your cash, time, and energy in a great cause. The reward far outweighs the cost.
1. Help Out at a Parade
Memorial Day is a time when parades are held in many cities and communities. While every parade is different, you can find out how to lend a hand by talking to your local Chamber of Commerce or city council. Opportunities may include directing traffic, dealing with permits, cleaning up, and more.
If the busyness of parades isn’t your cup of tea and you live in our nation’s capital, Mindful Memorial Day is a quiet alternative that simply involves creating a short video honoring a fallen soldier. The organization is also soliciting volunteers.
Besides public displays of remembrance, you can also volunteer at a veterans’ cemetery to provide tours or assist with grounds’ operations.
These cemeteries often need extra help due to the increased foot traffic during the holiday.
Use the Department of Veterans Affairs website to find a cemetery near you.
2. Place Flags
Organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars give volunteers the opportunity to place U.S. flags on the graves of fallen soldiers in commemoration of their sacrifice.
In recent years, the Garden of Flags Memorial in Boston has become increasingly popular. In fact, it’s spread nationwide. If you can get to Massachusetts each year, you have the opportunity to sign up online to volunteer in person each Memorial Day. But if you can't, you can still sponsor a flag via an online donation or do a quick web search to find local memorials in your area.
3. Place Flowers
You can also help to honor the fallen by placing flowers on their tombstones during the holiday.
Organizations like Memorial Day Flowers and the Memorial Day Foundation give volunteers the chance to donate their time, money, or a combination of both so that each soldier’s grave can have a flower or a wreath placed on it. You can even receive a pin for your efforts to cherish for years to come.
You can also donate virtual flowers if you are far from a military cemetery. For the last two years, the United Service Automobile Association (USAA) hosts an Online Poppy Memorial where you can commemorate the life and sacrifice of a United States armed service member.
Every poppy is displayed year-round on the USAA website, providing a nonwilting testament to the memory of our fallen soldiers.
4. Reach Out to a Survivor
Do you know people who have lost a loved one in the service of the country? Reach out to them on Memorial Day. Share a meal, take them out, or just listen if they want to talk. Memorial Day is hard for many spouses, children, and friends.
Help them grieve by listening to their stories and offering support.
It’s hard to lose someone who is dear to you. But having a support system can ease the burden, especially on this solemn holiday.
If you don’t know any survivors, there are still ways you can contribute. Check out the Directory of Veterans Service Organizations to get ideas for how you can help.
5. Give What You Can
If you really want to go the extra mile, consider giving back some of your fiscal and personal resources over the long weekend.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) provides support to the families of fallen soldiers through a national peer support network. Best of all, it costs nothing to the families themselves. When giving back this Memorial Day, consider donating to TAPS as a way to support military families during this day of remembrance.
If you’re strapped for cash, consider donating to the American Red Cross to help offset the lower donations throughout the summer months. It’s a no-cost way to give back that could save a life — plus you can score some free juice afterward.
The Importance of Volunteering on Memorial Day
No one wants to be forgotten. Honoring those who laid down their lives for our country means we haven’t forgotten them and that we never will. On this upcoming long weekend, consider what Memorial Day really represents.
It’s not just an opportunity to enjoy the nice weather while cooking out with friends and family, but an opportunity to commemorate the fallen for their valor.
Additional reporting by Connor Beckett McInerney.