May 252015
 
Memorializing veterans

What’s Memorial Day? A day for memorializing a veteran–or veteran’s story

Are you missing the point on Memorial Day? If you’re a memoirist, or memory collector, you might be.

We treat Memorial Day as a remembering day, not a memorializing day. And what better day could there be for memorializing?

Celebrating and remembering is great. So is hanging out your flag. But, if we want folks to remember the sacrifices that were made decades from now, we need to make sure stories of our veterans aren’t lost. And what better day to do that than Memorial Day?

How to Memorialize Someone on Memorial Day

Of course, memorializing doesn’t necessarily mean writing a story down. It can be as simple as while you’re eating hot dogs and hamburgers with Uncle Edward, you encourage him to tell the kids what it was like when he served his country. How he feels about his comrades in arms.

It can be as simple—and meaningful—as creating a tradition of remembering. There’s other things you can do as well.

Encourage storytelling:

As the veterans in your life get together and swap stories, take notes and ask questions so that you can preserve their memories later. Better yet, if they don’t mind, grab your smart phone and click on the voice recorder or the video function. Let them tell the story in their own words.

There are also some great veteran’s writing projects. Introduce them to one like Veteran’s Writing Project, O-Dark-Thirty, or Veteran’s Voices and encourage them to participate.

Research Your Relative’s Military Unit

For instance, my details about my grandfather’s service in France is scant. However, I’m finding out that it doesn’t have to be that way. According to the National Archives, for records from WWI to the present, a military veteran or his or her next of kin (assuming the veteran is deceased) can order military records.

Pre-WWI records can also be ordered—there’s even an option to order them online. FamilySearch.org has more options on finding more about your ancestor’s military service.

Tell a story from a different viewpoint.

The stories of epic battles, heroics, and the horrors of war aren’t the only stories that give insight into the soldier’s life and mindset. For instance, I think about my neighbor, who really doesn’t think his story is worth telling. He joined the US Navy around 1960.

But as my sons and I have listened to him talk about his youth, we think it’s a remarkable story. Perhaps even more so, because it’s not that different from the stories of many of his peers. He “joined up” as he puts it, as scared teenager. He did it because of a call to serve his country.

When he got home from his first tour of duty, he saw tears in his father’s eyes. It was only as he returned home that he realized how afraid his father was for him.

Your Turn:

What veteran or veteran’s story are you going to memorialize today? (Or really soon!)

 

Are you missing the point on Memorial Day? If you’re a memoirist or a memory collector, you might be.

We treat Memorial Day as a remembering day, not a memorializing day. And what better day could there be for memorializing?

Celebrating and remembering is great. So is hanging out your flag. But, if we want folks to remember the sacrifices that were made decades from now, we need to make sure stories of our veterans aren’t lost. And what better day to do that than Memorial Day?

How to Memorialize Someone on Memorial Day

Of course, memorializing doesn’t necessarily mean writing a story down. It can be as simple as while you’re eating hot dogs and hamburgers with Uncle Edward, you encourage him to tell the kids what it was like when he served his country. How he feels about his comrades in arms.

It can be as simple—and meaningful—as creating a tradition of remembering. There’s other things you can do as well.

Encourage storytelling:

As the veterans in your life get together and swap stories, take notes and ask questions so that you can preserve their memories later. Better yet, if they don’t mind, grab your smart phone and click on the voice recorder or the video function. Let them tell the story in their own words.

There are also some great veteran’s writing projects. Introduce them to one like Veteran’s Writing Project, O-Dark-Thirty, or Veteran’s Voices and encourage them to participate.

Research Your Relative’s Military Unit

For instance, my details about my grandfather’s service in France is scant. However, I’m finding out that it doesn’t have to be that way. According to the National Archives, for records from WWI to the present, a military veteran or his or her next of kin (assuming the veteran is deceased) can order military records.

Pre-WWI records can also be ordered—there’s even an option to order them online. FamilySearch.org has more options on finding more about your ancestor’s military service.

Tell a story from a different viewpoint.

The stories of epic battles, heroics, and the horrors of war aren’t the only stories that give insight into the soldier’s life and mindset. For instance, I think about my neighbor, who really doesn’t think his story is worth telling. He joined the US Navy around 1960.

But as my sons and I have listened to him talk about his youth, we think it’s a remarkable story. Perhaps even more so, because it’s not that different than the stories of many of his peers. He “joined up” as he puts it, as scared teenager. He did it because of a call to serve his country.

When he got home from his first tour of duty, he saw tears in his father’s eyes. It was only as he returned home that he realized how afraid his father was for him.

Your Turn:

What veteran or veteran’s story are you going to memorialize today? (Or really soon!)

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