Memorial Day means far more than just the beginning of summer and a long weekend off from work — it’s a day to pay our most sincere respects to the American soldiers who have given their lives so that we can all enjoy the freedoms that we cherish and hold dear.
Memorial Day serves as a reminder of the cost of that freedom and how the sacrifices made by millions of American soldiers have brought civilians the opportunity to live freely, with the ability to choose how we spend our lives.
What began as a burial ceremony for soldiers who died in the Civil War has become a nationally recognized holiday created to recognize, honor, and pay our respects to all U.S. military members who have sacrificed their lives both in battle and long after the battles are over.
Honoring the Sacrifices Made by Fallen American Soldiers
Across our nation’s history, millions of U.S. soldiers have given their lives in service to our country. In addition to the sacrifices soldiers make while on active duty, many also continue to make sacrifices long after their service is over.
Thousands of armed service members have been diagnosed with service-related injuries, including mesothelioma, which develops from asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly cancer that typically develops 20-50 years after exposure to asbestos. U.S. veterans are at particular risk of developing mesothelioma due to the sheer volume of asbestos used by the U.S. military throughout the early and mid-20th century. In fact, a vast majority of U.S. military ships, bases, barracks, docks, and vehicles were built using asbestos.
It’s for this reason that American veterans suffer disproportionately high rates of mesothelioma compared to the civilian public. Today, around 30% of all mesothelioma patients are U.S. veterans.
Of course, mesothelioma is far from the only illness that veterans develop after their service. According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), veterans are commonly plagued by service-related maladies such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Traumatic brain injury
- Chronic pain
- Substance abuse disorder
- Anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation
Some of these illnesses can cost veterans their lives — and that’s why it’s extremely important to give our heartfelt gratitude and respect in return for all of the sacrifices America’s bravest make.
How to Get Involved This Memorial Day
For many American families, Memorial Day weekend offers the opportunity to take a break from work and relax with loved ones, while enjoying good food, company, and cheer.
Amid all of the celebrations — especially in 2021, after more than a year of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic — it’s important that we all take the time to reflect and honor the men and women who have made all of our freedoms possible.
To give back this Memorial Day, consider doing any of the following:
- Visit and honor the gravesites of veterans: Whether one of your deceased relatives was a soldier or someone else you knew, Memorial Day gives us the opportunity to head to a cemetery and pay our respects to fallen soldiers. You can honor their life by placing flowers and flags by their place of rest.
- Attend a local parade: If weather and local COVID-19 restrictions permit, parades are a wonderful way to celebrate our fallen soldiers with your fellow citizens. Holding signs and cheering loud for our armed servicemen and women can really go a long way toward demonstrating our support.
- Donate your time or money: In the United States, there are always going to be soldiers and veterans who need help. Donate your time by volunteering to work with veterans and/or support initiatives that benefit veterans. Alternatively, or in addition, you can also donate funds to nonprofit organizations that provide aid and/or assistance to veterans.
Whatever you do this Memorial Day, be sure that you honor the sacrifices made by the members of our country’s military, whether they died during their service or after it.
By taking the time to do so, you are ensuring that their sacrifices weren’t made in vain and that their memories will continue to live on.