Memorial Day traditions: How my family celebrates Michigan veterans

Person waving an American flag (WDIV)

When it comes to traditions for Memorial Day weekend, we often think of parades.

Memorial Day is a special day for many Americans whose loved ones have fought for our country. Many traditions are held on this day -- either city-wide or within a family.

I am grateful that my dad had a tradition with us every Memorial Day that taught my siblings and me to appreciate those who fought for us.

During the weekend leading up to Memorial Day, my family will line our block with mini American flags at the end of every person’s driveway. Typically, we keep these flags up for a week.

Then, we would attend a Memorial Day parade: A symbol that summer is right around the corner. There have been times when we participated in the parade, but usually, we would hang out and watch the parade on a street curbside, waving our American flags and enjoying the high school bands performing Anchors Away.

Related: Check out these Michigan veteran memorials in honor of Memorial Day

Afterward, my dad would take us to a VFW hall. The purpose was to converse with veterans. My dad usually took us to one in our hometown, but sometimes we would explore and drive to a hall that was about 20-30 minutes away.

I remember one of the last times going to a VFW hall and sipping on a Shirley Temple, talking to a veteran from the Vietnam War.

Many of the vets that my siblings and I met fought in the Vietnam and Korean wars. It was amazing to hear their stories and learn some of the similarities despite being from totally different time periods.

Click here to find a post in your neighborhood.

After our fifth non-alcoholic Shirley Temple, my dad would do our traditional drive-by. For Memorial Day, Labor Day, and oftentimes Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, our family would drive through a cemetery.

My dad would always want us to acknowledge the number of American flags that were at gravesites. Sometimes, we would walk around and check out the names of those who fought for our county. The feeling of walking through an older cemetery like Saint Hedwig, where there are graves from the early 1900s, would be overwhelming at times.

There are four cemeteries acknowledged by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

There is also a state and tribal veterans cemetery in Grand Rapids.

There are several resources for veterans in Metro Detroit dedicated to helping those who fought for us in one way or another.

Check out the organizations below that cater to Michigan veterans:

American Red Cross of southeastern Michigan

Habitat for Humanity

Michigan Department of Military and Veteran Affairs

Michigan Veteran Homes

Volunteers of America

Wounded Warrior Project

Many people have Memorial Day traditions like heading to Kensington Park for the first day of the beach opening or grilling with friends. My family’s tradition may not be the most fun, but it is one that I hope to carry on with as I get older.


Click here to tell us about your unique Memorial Day Weekend traditions.


About the Author:

Elizabeth Washington is a Digital Producer and has been with Local 4 News since April 2022.