10 Ways to Honor the Fallen Outdoors and at Home on Memorial Day 2021

By USO Staff

As the first long weekend of the summer, Memorial Day is traditionally filled with barbecues and outdoor activities – but it is first and foremost a very somber holiday intended to honor our nation’s fallen heroes.

Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday in May, pays tribute to service members who have died in military service to the nation.

While many will spend their Memorial Day 2021 relaxing at home or outdoors, it’s also important to spend a few moments during the unofficial start of summer remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

No matter where you choose to spend Memorial Day 2021, there are plenty of ways you can honor the fallen and still enjoy the unofficial start of summer:

1. Take a Walk Through Your Local Veterans Cemetery

Photo credit DVIDS/Elizabeth Fraser

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Honor Guard, a drummer from the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Band, and the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment Caisson Platoon conduct modified military funeral honors with funeral escort for retired U.S. Coast Guardsman in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia on May 6, 2021.

Most states have national veterans cemeteries where you can pay a visit and honor the fallen. Many cemeteries might have adjusted hours or be only open to family members, but this varies across the country.

2. Brush Up on Your Memorial Day Knowledge

Many people easily confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day or other military holidays. You can refresh your memory on the difference between these holidays in five minutes or less with this quick read.

3. Participate in a Virtual Memorial Day Walk or Running Race

Many annual Memorial Day weekend running races have gone virtual and you can participate in one of these races in your local community as a way to honor the fallen. From 5Ks to half marathons, there are plenty of options available through run-hosting organizations across the country – all it takes to find them is a quick internet search!

4. Learn About Gold Star Families

The designation “Gold Star Family” is reserved for families of military members who have died in the line of duty. This title is meant to honor the service member’s ultimate sacrifice while acknowledging their family’s loss, grief and continued healing. Spend a few moments this weekend learning about Gold Star Families in honor of Memorial Day.

Photo credit DVIDS/Elizabeth Fraser

Soldiers fold the U.S. flag as part of military funeral honors for Army Pfc. William H. Jones in Arlington, Virginia on Aug. 22, 2019.

5. Investigate Your Family’s Military History

When is the last time you asked family members about their connection to the U.S. military? Their answers might surprise you! Spend a few moments this weekend talking to relatives about family members that have served in the military.

6. Watch the National Memorial Day Parade

While this annual tradition will be closed in-person to the public, it will be filmed and aired on television for families all across the nation to enjoy on major broadcast networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. Check your TV listings to find the airtime of the program near you.

7. Virtually Visit a War Memorial in D.C.

In 2019, the USO headed out throughout the capital region and captured 360-degree videos of several D.C.-area war memorials, including the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. Check out both videos, and read about other D.C.-area memorials by clicking here.

8. Try a CrossFit Hero Workout from the Comfort of your Home

Often referred to as a WOD (Workout of the Day) in the CrossFit community, these Hero WODs are designed to commemorate a fallen war hero and can be a healthy way to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Photo credit DVIDS/Spc. Angel Ruszkiewicz

U.S. airmen assigned to 442nd Air Expeditionary Squadron perform various exercises as part of the Murph challenge at Erbil Air Base in Iraq on May 25, 2020. Mask and social distancing guidelines throughout the pandemic have varied from base to base.

One of the popular hero workouts to tackle on Memorial Day weekend is the “Murph,” named in honor of Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Michael Murphy, who died in the line of duty in 2005 alongside two fellow Navy SEALs. To complete the workout, participants must run 1 mile; do 100 pull ups, 200 pushups and 300 squats; and run another mile – all while wearing a weighted vest or body armor.

9. Learn about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Arguably Arlington National Cemetery’s most iconic memorial, the white stone sarcophagus is guarded 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and honors the unidentified soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

Photo credit DVIDS/Elizabeth Fraser

Sentinels from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment stand guard and conduct the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on May 6, 2021.

10. Watch a Movie About the U.S. Military

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of movies about life in the U.S. military. From movies about World War II to memoirs of Vietnam, spend some time on Memorial Day weekend 2021 watching a film that pays tribute to the service men and women who have sacrificed for the nation. To help you choose a film to watch, check out this list of films from the team at We Are the Mighty.

More Stories Like This

As the COVID-19 outbreak is evolving, the USO has pivoted resources across the entire global enterprise in an approach that helps care for military members and their families.

GIVE TODAY SHARE A MESSAGE

Sign Up for Updates

Be the first to learn about news, service member stories and fundraising updates from USO.

Take Action

The USO relies on your support to help service members and their families.

Ways to Support