Besides grilling, sitting by a lake or pool and enjoying time with friends or family, there’s one more thing many of us associate with Memorial Day: sales.
In the weeks leading up to the annual holiday, you can’t miss the constant ads for deals, discounts and promotions at businesses across the nation. It’s supposed to be a day to honor and remember those who’ve died serving in the U.S. military, so why do we even have Memorial Day sales?
Some credit it to warmer weather pushing people outdoors (and to the shops); how Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer; the three-day weekend giving millions of people more time to buy; and even just simply the tradition of it.
But the commercialization of Memorial Day is not unlike any other holiday—Labor Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving/Black Friday and Christmas sales to name a few—and it brings in tons of revenue for businesses across the country, sometimes even more than Black Friday. However, if a business doesn’t acknowledge what the day is actually for but jumps on the chance to offer deals and promos to rake in the money, it can rub people—especially veterans—the wrong way.
Here are seven ways to respectfully commemorate Memorial Day while still putting on special promotions and discounts.
Celebrate your military veteran employees
Get photos (from when they were in the service) and profiles of all veteran employees. Circulate this to the entire company with a message from leadership, and you can even consider posting the photos on social media with messages from the veterans themselves.
“This will highlight the contributions of your veterans plus reinforce the positive attributes of military service that align with your internal culture,” says Joe Beard, former U.S. Army captain, West Point graduate and CEO and co-founder of CollateralEdge.
“It is also a great way for your employees to learn about each other.”
Recognize Memorial Day on your business’ social media pages and website (and do it in a meaningful way)
The first critical step: Don’t say “Happy Memorial Day.” This holiday is not the same as wishing someone a “happy holidays”—it’s a somber day to pause and reflect on the sacrifice millions of soldiers made for our freedoms.
Use your social media pages and website to share a veteran’s story or to share the history of Memorial Day and its significance. You could add icons or widgets on your website that link to community Memorial Day event information, historical facts about the holiday or national organizations for people to donate money or volunteer.
Sponsor or participate in a local Memorial Day event in your town
Cities and towns across the country observe Memorial Day with parades, fundraisers and community events. Sponsoring or volunteering at a local Memorial Day event not only gets your business’ name out there, but it also connects you to the community in the right way.
“I believe everyone should take a day to remember why Americans can live the way we do. It is because of the fallen that we get to live in peace and comfort,” says Kyle Retter, U.S. veteran and owner of Fitness Premier 24/7 Clubs.
Volunteer at a veterans memorial cemetery
No matter if it’s a specific service project, general cleanup or even placing flags by tombstones, there are plenty of ways to participate. If there’s a veterans memorial cemetery nearby, gather your staff to volunteer for a day, or even a few hours.
“Memorial Day is about what we as a nation have achieved through the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. Not the rich, not the poor, but all of us, together,” says Zachary Malone, co-owner of EZ Elopements LLC and U.S. Army veteran.
“I think giving back is what truly honors those who have gone before us, and an organized platform such as a company or local office can do a lot of good in a small amount of time.”
Invite a veteran to speak to your team
If you don’t have any veterans on staff (or they aren’t willing to share their experiences), bringing a veteran in to talk with your team is a great way to get people focused on what Memorial Day really means.
“There are generations of veterans that are passing away, and they all have fascinating stories to tell,” Beard says.
“The inspiration and learnings could be unlimited for your team. Additionally, it’s a great way to honor a veteran.”
Donate a portion of Memorial Day sale proceeds
If you’re offering special sales for the holiday, consider donating all or a portion of the proceeds to a trusted charitable organization that helps families of fallen veterans or veterans in general. About 25,000 children have lost a parent who was an active duty member in the military in the past 35 years, according to Children of Fallen Patriots, with 60 percent of families reporting having trouble making ends meet.
Here are just a few of the thousands of organizations aimed at helping veterans and their families. Your city leaders might also have options to consider that are more local:
Hire a veteran, or initiate a program around hiring veterans
Although this is more of a long-term suggestion rather than a specific Memorial Day commemoration, it’s an effective way to honor veterans beyond the weekend.
“Transitioning from the military can be really difficult for many soldiers, especially those wounded in combat. What better way to honor veterans than by making sure you employ them and give them opportunities to continue contributing to society?” Beard says.
“Undoubtedly these employees will bring the right work ethic and cultural norms that will be additive to most businesses. This is really putting your money where your mouth is for senior executives.”