By USO Staff
As the first long weekend of the summer, Memorial Day is traditionally filled with barbecues and outdoor activities, but it’s also a very somber holiday intended to reflect on our nation’s fallen heroes.
This year especially, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Memorial Day 2020 will stand out as a unique day in history, as many will have to alter their typical Memorial Day Weekend plans to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Even while adhering to CDC guidelines and social distancing best practices to help stop the spread of COVID-19, there are plenty of ways you can honor the fallen while still enjoying the unofficial start of summer:
1. Take a Socially-Distanced Walk Through your Local Veteran’s Cemetery
Most states have national veterans cemeteries where you can pay a visit and honor the fallen. Check in with your local veterans cemeteries for any COVID-19 updates to their hours of operations to plan your socially-distant visit – many cemeteries are either closed entirely or are 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
Like most events these days, many annual Memorial Day weekend running races have gone virtual to promote social-distancing best practices. You can participate in a virtual race in your local community as a way to honor the fallen. From 5Ks to half marathons, here are plenty of options available through run-hosting organizations across the country.
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.
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.
In fact, if you come across a great story from the World War II era, the USO is currently collecting personal stories and photographs from veterans, military family members and USO supporters like you in honor of the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII. We plan to add these to our archives and share some of them with our community. We believe that these stories matter, and that they should be remembered.
6. Virtually Attend a Memorial Day Parade
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual Memorial Day parades are planned all over the country this weekend, and they are a great way to both do something fun and safe with the family, while also paying respect to the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom. Check with your usual local parade host to see what their virtual parade offerings are for Memorial Day 2020.
7. Virtually Visit a War Memorial in D.C.
Last year, the USO headed out throughout the capital region and captured 360 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, socially-distanced way to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
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.
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 2020 watching a film that pays tribute to the service men and women who have scarified 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.
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