Note: In the United States, Monday is Memorial Day, a national holiday.
Memorial Day, a day designed to honor those who have given their lives in military service to the 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 93% of employers have designated Memorial Day as a paid day off, many – especially in retail — require at least some employees to work the holiday, according to a 2017 SHRM survey.
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 and died to protect our freedoms and liberties, and to recognize those in your workforce who have served. Here are three suggestions:
1. 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 a morale booster and recognize one’s commitment to their service.
Don’t have time to create coins? Don’t fret — appreciation can be shown in many shapes and forms. Most importantly, say thank you.
2. Commemorative wall
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. They can also print their own message of support and post it.
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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.
3. Operation Gratitude
While we live in the age of digital communications, 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. Today and even after Memorial Day, 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.
A version of this article was originally published on wforce.org.