What to say instead of 'Happy Memorial Day'

Before you say people are well-intentioned, which they are, just hear us out

By Michelle Ganley - Graham Media Group
Getty Images

Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment place flags at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery (Win McNamee/Getty Images/2012 file photo).

The difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day still seems to trip people up, although it shouldn't.

As a quick refresher, on Memorial Day, we remember those who died while serving our country. Veterans Day is intended to honor the service of all people who have worn armed services uniforms.

So, what do you say on Memorial Day to someone who might be struggling: a widow, a veteran or anyone who's been especially affected by a military member's death?

The website DiversityInc wrote about this very topic in May 2017, and the article has been recirculating lately, for good reason. "This common misconception, that Memorial Day is a time to thank veterans, is not in fact what the holiday is intended for," the site says.


Here are some ideas on what you can say instead. Try something like:

  • “Enjoy your weekend, but I want you to know that I will be remembering what this holiday is about.”
  • “Enjoy your weekend, and I will be thinking about those who are no longer with us.”
  • “I will be taking a moment this weekend to honor those that served our nation and are no longer with us."
  • NPR suggests, "I hope you're having a meaningful day."

 

Those seem preferable to:

  • "Thank you for your service."
  • "Happy Memorial Day."
  • "Is this a difficult weekend for you?"
  • “How many friends did you lose on your deployments?”

It might be hard to approach any veterans you might know, but saying something meaningful really could make all the difference for someone having a difficult day.

Before you think this is splitting hairs, consider that what you say matters.

While it's certainly not "wrong" to wish someone a "Happy Memorial Day," and it's safe to assume most people are well-intentioned, it seems as though taking a few minutes to say the right thing will mean much more.

After all, the day is about more than backyard parties and barbecues. Let's prove it by taking a moment to examine our words.

Graham Media Group 2019