Memorial Day: 5 Ways to Honor Fallen Troops

PHOTO: A crowd of people are seen waving flags at a Memorial Day Parade, in this undated photo.
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Today is Memorial Day, which originated as Decoration Day to honor Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. The designation was later expanded to include the troops who have died in all wars.

There are lots of ways to honor them every year on the last day of May, publicly or in private. Here are five of them.

Memorial Day

PHOTO: Crystal Lewis (L) and her daughter Morgan Lewis sit at the gravesite of Morgan's high school sweetheart, U.S. Marine Nicholas Cain Kirven, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005, on Memorial Day at section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery May 28, 2
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Be Traditional

The Department of Veterans Affairs has 131 national cemeteries in 39 states (and Puerto Rico), in addition to 33 soldier's lots and monument sites. Take flowers to one of them. After all, it's part of the original Memorial Day Order, designating May 30, 1868, "for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion..."

Memorial Day

PHOTO: People hold hands during a moment of silence at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 30, 2011 in Arlington, VA.
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Be Contemplative

President Bill Clinton issued a memorandum in 2000 on the White House Program for the National Moment of Remembrance that encouraged Americans "to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all."

Memorial Day

PHOTO: A great day way to spend Memorial Day is to Donate Clothing or food to your local veterans Association.
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Be Generous

Vietnam Veterans of America operates a service called that will pick up your used clothes and household goods. Operating in 30 states, it uses the donations to support programs for all veterans.

Memorial Day

PHOTO: A crowd of people are seen waving flags at a Memorial Day Parade, in this undated photo.
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Be Celebratory

Parades and celebrations are standard fare in many U.S. communities so this should be a relatively simple outing in appreciation of service members. Not sure of parades in your area? This website run by might help.

Memorial Day

PHOTO: Teachers at Lady's Island Intermediate School hand out American flags to a group of fifth grade students at the Beaufort National Cemetery May 27, 2011 in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Stephen Morton/Getty Images
Be Proud

The U.S. Flag Code points out that it's perfectly fine to fly the flag every day but today is one of the occasions when it is especially a good idea. Learn about the proper ways to do it.

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