Memorial Day in the U.S. started off as a somber day of remembrance, a day where we in America went to cemeteries and placed flags or flowers on the graves of those who died in battle or in some way during the course of war. We remembered our ancestors, family members, loved ones, and even unknown soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us. They died for our freedom. Possibly they died to help give freedom to someone else as well.

Today, many people actually "celebrate" this day with little thought about it's original purpose or meaning. They have picnics and parties. They enjoy the fact that they have a three-day weekend without ever stopping to consider why.

This holiday came with a price—and is no cause for celebration. The fact that we have a day off should be for one reason only: as a memorial.

From what I can discern, there have been approximately 654,446 Americans in uniform killed under arms between 1775 and 2008 and another 525,930 who died while performing military service other than combat during that time. These numbers don't include those lost in Iraq after May 2008. It's true, freedom is never free.

We have other national days of celebration but only one Memorial Day. We should use it as such. I've heard it said that we should "put the 'memorial' back in Memorial Day," and I'd have to agree.

There is meaning in parades and such, but the energy in a parade is upbeat and celebratory. I'd suggest other ways of recognizing our dead soldiers. Go back to cemeteries of the fallen and places flags or flowers on their graves, visiting war memorials, and support the care of these cemeteries and memorials.

I'd suggest doing something totally related to the holiday. Remember that while most of us are the beneficiaries of the sacrifice made by those who gave their lives, most of us also are untouched by that loss. There are those whose lives have been deeply touched by the loss...such as the families and friends of the fallen soldiers. A wonderful way to make Memorial Day more meaningful involves reaching out to these people. I'm sure that more often than not they feel their loss goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

What if on Memorial day you brought the families of fallen soldiers a thank you card, or even put one anonymously in their mailbox? You could place flowers and a note at their door. You could cook them a meal, or simply go to visit them. In particular, if these people live alone, they might enjoy the company, especially on this holiday.

Others have suggested doing more traditional things, such as

* visiting the graves of unknown soldiers
* flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon
* flying the POW/MIA Flag
* renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our fallen dead, and to aid the disabled veterans
* do something for disabled veterans

You might also consider adding your support to the efforts to restore the traditional day of observance of Memorial Day back to May 30th (instead of the last Monday in May). Don't just make it a holiday; make the day a memorial day.

From a spiritual perspective, you could make the day more spiritual by participating in a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m., which gives you a chance to actually pause and consider the true meaning of the day and offer up prayers to the fallen or for those soldiers still fighting around the world. You can pray for the soldiers who protect our country now.

Judaism has a prayer for the dead, the kaddish. Jews could say this prayer on memorial day for all the fallen soldiers. People from other religions could do something similar or light one of those seven day candles or a yartzeit candle, one that burns for a full day, as is used in the Jewish tradition to mark the anniversary of someone's death. You could create a small memorial to someone you know who has fallen during battle or war, or to all the soldiers; place a candle there and some flowers, and simply say a brief payer or blessing after creating it.

Whatever you do, don't just go out and have a picnic or party and celebrate. That's not what Memorial Day is all about. Remember that. Remember.

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Human potential speaker Nina Amir is the author of the forthcoming book 7 Steps to Creating Your Soul's Desire, How to Find Your Divine Purpose and Fulfill It. Join her mailing list at to receive a free copy of her popular e-book, From Empty Practice to Meaning-full and Spirit-full Rituals and 7 Simple Steps!