May is filled with special days: Mother’s Day, the start of some of the year’s most beautiful weather and the time when we begin planning BBQs, picnics and other outdoor gatherings.
One of the year’s most important days is Memorial Day, which falls on Monday, May 28, this year.
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for the brave men and women of the United States military who gave their lives to protect the American people.
There are many ways to show your appreciation and respect for our fallen heroes.
The traditional show of respect is to fly the American flag at half-staff at noon. You should begin the morning with the flag at the full staff position and then slowly lower it at noon, then raise it back to full staff for the remainder of the day. A flag at half-staff symbolizes the lost lives of our soldiers, sailors and airmen and women. When the flag is raised from half to full staff, it signifies that it is being raised by the living, who are here to continue to protect our people and honor the memory of those lost.
There are other ways we can honor our veterans, such as visiting a veterans’ cemetery, volunteering to place flowers on graves, or attending local parades and memorial services. Find out what events are happening in your community, and consider bringing the younger members of your family – it’s a great way to teach children about America’s heroes.
It’s important to remember to respect the families of these veterans. These people have lost sons, daughters, husbands, wives and parents. We need to let them know that their loved ones’ sacrifices will never be forgotten, that we as a nation are extremely proud of our veterans, and that we are here to help families recover from their loss.
Finally, we also need to be aware of living veterans who need our help. Their time in combat can often leave them with lasting injuries or physical and emotional health problems. Other veterans may be facing homelessness or poverty. Just as they were willing to protect us, we need to be willing to protect them in return.
A great way to start is to become involved with local organizations that help our veterans, such as the Vietnam Veterans of America, the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Veterans of Korean War and the Wounded Warrior Project.
To learn more about county programs that benefit our veterans, such as the Veterans Housing Assistance Program, visit www.middlesexcountynj.gov and search “veterans.”
May God bless our veterans and may God bless the United States of America.
Ronald G. Rios is the director of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. He writes the occasional column for Newspaper Media Group.