Ironically, some of the people who best understand the solemnity of this day are those who make their living as humorists for most of the rest of the year. Dave Barry links to both a set of instructions as to how to properly celebrate Memorial Day and a good collection of Memorial Day quotes. Let me share a few of the latter:
I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day. I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it. We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did. — Benjamin HarrisonAnd James Lileks, who hasn't had any family members who died in service, posts a picture of the closest thing: The man on whose former farm Lileks' house was built (he didn't die right away, but was seriously wounded for a time).
The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree. — Thomas Campbell
The Flag still floats unblotted with defeat!
But ah the blood that keeps its ripples red,
The starry lives that keep its field alight.
– Rupert Hughes
It's still possible to properly observe this day amidst the cookouts, of course. A White House decree from 2000 explains how to participate in a National Moment of Remembrance today:
Encouraging individual department and agency personnel, andIt's nearly 3:00. Will you stop and remember?
Americans everywhere, to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m.
(local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the
sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.