Memorial Day signifies the beginning of summer. School is almost out, and the weather has turned warm. People take the long weekend to travel, have bbq parties, swim, bike, and spend it with friends and family. But there's a deeper meaning to Memorial Day that we often times forget. Yes, it is a legal holiday but the original intent was to set aside a day in which we commemorate the members of the United States armed forces who were killed in war.

In this day and age, you would be hard pressed to find someone who hadn't had a family member killed or at least know someone who did in one of the wars our country has been involved in. Even if you, personally, don't have a family member who died while protecting our country, there are thousands who have.

My uncle served in the Korean war. My father was in the Air force. My father-in-law is a Marine. I have not served in any capacity as a member of the armed forces, but I feel a great appreciation for those that have. Without their dedication and loyalty to our country, we might not have a country today as we know it. Someone once told me that those who died and were buried in service to our country are there underground now so that we may stay proud and free on the ground above.

Therefore, I want this Memorial Day to be filled with thanksgiving and loving remembrance toward all those that have given their lives to protect ours. It is a selfless act of duty, courage, and love.

So, what are the best ways to appreciate Memorial Day?

I've listed my top 5 ideas - perhaps they will spark your imagination and you, too, can take a moment to appreciate those that have gone before us and who continue to protect us and our freedoms, today.

#1. Read some of the poems found online that people have written to commemorate their friend or relative who served and died for our country. Simply do a search for Memorial Day Poems in Google.

#2. Take the time to read up on Memorial Day history. Also an easy Google search.

#3. My son is a Boy Scout and every year, we go to the local veteran's cemetery and place flags on the graves. It's done early in the morning and there's a sense of reverence watching the boys take their responsibility seriously to decorate the graves. You don't need to be a Boy Scout to participate! This one small act moves me every year.

#4. Put your flag up and fly it at half-mast.

#5. Host a Memorial Day Picnic and have each guest bring a short story about someone they knew, or read about, or heard about who served or is serving our country. Make it a potluck and have everyone bring their favorite easy appetizers and simple finger foods.

The point is, Memorial Day is a day of celebration. A day to spend with your loved ones and a day to remember that those who have gone before us, have not died in vain. We still live in a free country - something we should never take for granted.

Happy, thoughtful Memorial Day to you. Eat, drink, and remember.

Author's Bio: 

Sara Gray is an avid lover of appetizers (and anything really to do with food!) and has created a couple of fun and informative websites. Easy Appetizer Recipes - Memorial Day Appetizers is where you can find delicious ideas for all kinds of hot and cold appetizers, raclette grilling, tapas small plates, snacks, chips and dip ideas, and holiday appetizers. And Soup Hoopla! has everything you ever wanted to know about soup and fabulous recipes too.