Memorial Day, a day designed to honor those who died serving our country, was initially called Decoration Day and became a federal holiday in 1971. Its beginnings date back to the end of the Civil War when people would decorate soldiers' graves with flowers and wreaths to honor their fallen heroes.
While 97 percent of employers have designated Memorial Day as a paid day off, as many as 40 percent of companies still require at least some employees to work the holiday, according to Bloomberg BNA.
Whether you clock in on Memorial Day or celebrate with BBQs and parades outside the office, it’s important to take a moment to honor and remember those who fought to protect our freedoms and liberties.
Here are three ways to honor our nation’s heroes at work:
Tokens of appreciation
At Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), each of our veterans receives a coin upon completion of one of the programs or on their first day of employment. These coins hold a lot of symbolic value for those who served in the military. Challenge coins represent rewards or awards for outstanding service or performance of duty. While they are not officially sanctioned, they are boost morale and recognize one’s commitment to their service.
Memorial Day is a time to show gratitude and say thank you to our colleagues who are also veterans, active military, or their spouses. Don’t have time to create coins? Don’t fret --- appreciation can be shown in many shapes and forms. Perhaps give each service member an American flag for their office or 550 cord bracelets. But most importantly, say thank you.
Arts & crafts
In an area where people will see it, such as the office kitchen, hang a bulletin board. Encourage everyone in the office to post photos from their own or a loved one’s service. Here are some other printables you can put on the bulletin board to show support for our troops.
Keep this effort going through the Fourth of July and encourage veterans and active military in the office to share stories and memories from serving with their civilian colleagues. Creating an environment that encourages the free flow of information and experiences, such as what it's like to serve and the struggles they face when they return home, is the first step to truly fostering inclusive and veteran-friendly workplaces.
While we live in the age of digital communications, i.e. text, email, and social media, there is nothing that can quite replace a handwritten note. Operation Gratitude delivers care packages and letters to deployed troops, veterans, wounded heroes and their caregivers, new recruits, and first responders. Over the weeks leading to Memorial Day, and even after, make note paper available to your staff and encourage them to write thank you notes to those who serve our country. There are many ways corporations can get involved, such as assembling care kits and making paracord bracelets.
Take giving back to the next level and host a book drive to benefit Operation Paperback. This organization ships books to deployed military members and their families. Books can range from those that help with professional development to children books that troops can read to their children via webcam while deployed.