A Time for Unity: Memorial Day Then and Now
Memorial Day has always been a day of unity a time for Americans to come together in remembrance of our fallen heroes from wars past and present. It is, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, a call "to bind our nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan."
At the 2006 “National Memorial Day Concert”, Gen. Colin Powell USA (Ret.) will share his thoughts on Memorial Day then and now and how the holiday's deeper meaning continues to inspire us as we struggle for ways to heal at a time when "there is immediacy to our sorrow" and "the wounds of war are new again."
Making a Difference "On the Home Front"
When a family loses a loved one, the future suddenly looks very different. Family members need time to grieve, not only for the loved one but also for all the things that "might have been." We naturally want to help these bereaved families, but don't wish to intrude upon their privacy at such a difficult time. Chances are, such families would appreciate and benefit from the support of their community, but simply may not be ready to ask for it.
Go ahead and reach out with a definite idea in mind of how to help. For instance, you could say, "I have three hours on Monday and I can come over to baby-sit. If you'd rather I do something else, let me know!" Be specific in your offering, but also be ready to listen and help as the family's needs change. Remember too that holidays can be difficult, so be sure to be in touch at those times. Or you could participate in some of the other ways listed below.
For ideas about helping families cope with grief, children in particular, go to the Help in Healing section of our website or The American Hospice Foundation. The Grief Center and "Ask Helen" sections of the site will help you better understand what grieving families may be encountering.
Practical Ways to Support the Troops
There are many things we can do as individuals and in groups to help the families of fallen soldiers and those deployed overseas, from posting a note to the troops on the Internet, raising money to send kids to camp or organizing a "job jar" of everyday tasks needed by the families of the fallen.
Here are some useful links and ideas about how to get started:
America Supports You
Americans can show their support by posting a message to the troops, requesting and wearing the program's free dog tag or finding an organization through which they can donate frequent flyer miles, send gift certificates, help sponsor homes for disabled troops or send letters, messages and care packages. The website provides information about more than 150 nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping our troops and their families.
VA Voluntary Service (VAVS)
USO Care Package Program
For a $25 dollar donation, Americans can sponsor a care package for a service member who is either en route to an overseas assignment or currently deployed. Each USO Care Package is assembled by volunteers and contains, at a minimum, a 100-minute international calling card, a disposable camera, toiletries, sunscreen and a message of support from a Care Package sponsor.
Voices from Home
Cell Phones for Soldiers