American FlagThe satisfying sizzle of burgers on the grill and the declaration that it is swimming pool season are typical responses to Memorial Day. Memorial Day has become synonymous with a long weekend, summertime activities, and family gatherings. Many people forget or are unaware of what the “memorial” in Memorial Day means.

The United States has no shortage of patriotic holidays. Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and the Fourth of July have been set aside to remember important parts of our history and the people who shaped and continue to shape it. Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday in 1971, but it has roots dating back to 1868, just after the Civil War. Originally known as Decoration Day, this was a time set aside to maintain and adorn the graves of our country’s war dead. It represents our gratitude as a nation and our hope for peace in the future.

Gold Star Awareness Month

May is also Gold Star Awareness Month, which recognizes families who have lost someone in war. Memorial Day, always observed on the final Monday in May, serves as the culmination of Gold Star Awareness activities in many parts of the country. Memorial Day is a somber occasion for anyone who suffered a loss in war. People traditionally place American flags or flowers on the graves of service members on this day. At 3 PM local time on Memorial Day, Americans participate in a National Moment of Remembrance. Cities all around the country hold races, parades, and other events to commemorate the holiday.

While Memorial Day honors those who have fallen in war, it is also another opportunity to consider our veterans and current service members. Many of our veterans experience Memorial Day differently than civilians because they may have a stronger connection to the reason for the holiday’s existence. Why wait until November to take a moment to be grateful for what our fellow citizens have done for us? The experiences that people have while serving dramatically change their lives, and the work that they do has a profound effect on everyone’s way of life in America.

E and R Auto Wrecking – A Veteran-Owned Business

Transitioning from military to civilian life is a challenging opportunity for service members to translate what they have learned during their military service into skill sets that benefit their community. One veteran who has done this successfully is E & R Auto Wrecking’s own Jose Espinoza. He was in the Army for 19 years, and he continues to serve in the National Guard. In the Army, he learned the importance of attention to detail and work ethic, skills which prove invaluable to him as the co-owner of E & R Auto Wrecking. Captain Espinoza served his country, and now he has returned to serve the community in which he grew up through his commitment to quality customer service and ethical, eco-friendly practices.

On Memorial Day, take some time to think about our fallen warriors first and foremost, but also take the time to thank our vets. Giving patronage to a veteran-owned business not only supports veterans who have successfully transitioned to the civilian workforce, but it allows those veterans to pay it forward.

Entrepreneurs like Jose Espinoza represent the possibilities that exist for those returning to civilian life. They also remind us of the tremendous loss that we as a nation bear when one of our sons or daughters does not come home.

This Memorial Day may involve hosting a barbecue or traveling, but it is important to remember why the holiday exists. Take time to participate in a moment of remembrance or another activity that supports Gold Star Families or veterans. Visit a war memorial or proudly fly the flag. Give a moment of gratitude to those who have come before us for enforcing the policies that allow us to enjoy life in America: some of them paid the ultimate price.