Memorial Day is the day we remember and honor those who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. While it marks the unofficial start of summer and the climax of a weekend of retail and car sales, Memorial Day, and the month of May in general, offers an opportunity for business organizations and corporations to recognize the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. Unlike other military and veteran holidays built around celebration, Memorial Day is for remembrance and service.
The methods of corporate outreach around the final Monday in May can vary, but the aim should be the same. Companies can build their Memorial Day community engagement around three main areas, including service, education, and remembrance.
Service projects are a great way to commemorate Memorial Day as well as serve the greater military and veteran community. Partnerships with student veteran chapters at local schools can create a lot of opportunity for engagement, recruiting, and education with both veterans and the community at large. Partnerships are also a great way to engage local National Guard and Reserve units in the community, including employment workshops, deployed spouse events, and education events for kids. Mentorship programs, especially with other diversity community groups and corporate organizations, can provide leadership and mentorship opportunities to underserved groups. Service can be with veterans to support other communities, not just the military and veteran community.
A huge part of Memorial Day remembrance should be education around history and legacy. Inaugurating a corporate speaker series with veterans speaking of their experiences, especially the Vietnam War, Gulf War, and post-9/11 combat veterans, is a profound way to mark the holiday. Field trips and staff rides to battlefields, monuments, and cemeteries is a way to bring junior employees, veterans, and corporate leaders to learn more about the citizenship sacrifice of our fallen service members. Finally, many museums offer legacy weeks during May, where admission is reduced for groups focused on learning about our nation’s military history and volunteer docents line up to work with groups to share their knowledge.
Lastly, Memorial Day should focus around the day and occasion itself. There are many opportunities for employee resource groups, community engagement teams, corporate volunteer groups, and partners to participate in Memorial Day ceremonies, remembrances, and community events marking the day. Cemetery cleanups, where weathered American flags are discarded, and new flags put in their place and headstones are cleaned, are increasingly seen around the country. Flag ceremonies are also essential and can be a great way to remind our communities about the true meaning of the day and the legacy of our service members sacrifices. With a growing civilian-military divide and an ever-shrinking portion of our populace that has served in the military, Memorial Day is an opportunity for companies to connect with their communities and recognize the shared sacrifice of those that have fought and died for their country. What is important is not what you do to organize your company engagement around Memorial Day, but that you do something. Educate your employees and remember those who have fallen in uniformed service for our country.