My father and my aunt both served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Also, one of my best friends is married to a drill sergeant who is about to begin his fourth tour of Afghanistan (leaving her behind with their three-year-old daughter for the second time since they’ve been married). What this means is that, on a daily basis, I marvel at how much some of us are willing to do without in order to keep the rest of us safe. Here are some of my favorite ways to say "thank you" to our servicemen and women—even in years when I’m on a very strict budget.

1. Observe a moment of silence in tribute to those who have fallen is inviting every American to observe a moment of silence at 3:00 PM (your local time) on Monday, May 26. During this moment of silence, we are asked to reflect on those servicepersons who passed away serving their country…and ours. 

2. Volunteer your time to serve our servicepersons

There are many fabulous organizations chartered specifically to serve military personnel and their families. Giving your time to help support these organizations—whether on Memorial Day itself or at a time convenient for your schedule—is one of the most meaningful ways to say "thank you!"

Here are some resources to help you find the perfect volunteer fit

  • This national government web portal is your gateway to a variety of organizations that serve our military. You can also request service toolkits to create your own project or event in support of the military.
  • Charity Navigator has a long list of vetted nonprofit organizations that serve different branches of the military in different ways.
  • Giving blood (or making a financial donation in lieu of blood) is one of the best ways to support active duty military and veterans who need medical attention.

3. Buy a hungry active duty serviceperson or veteran a meal

During my waitressing days, many of the restaurants where I worked would offer free or deeply discounted meals to any serviceperson (active duty or veteran) on Memorial Day. Occasionally I would witness the most wonderful acts of kindness—such as the time when one of the guests I was serving quietly asked if they could pick up the bill for the military family seated nearby. Of course, I said "yes!"

4. Host a movie night and watch a film focused on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is both solemn and festive—it’s a day to honor those we’ve lost and celebrate the freedom they sacrificed their lives to provide for us. These films all focus on different aspects of military service and life. Also, be sure to check with your local television networks before renting a film, because often scheduled local programming will include holiday-specific films or television specials.

Note: If you have young kids in the household, be sure to pick an alternate selection for them to watch in a separate room, since many of these films may include content and images not suitable for children.

Great films to watch on Memorial Day

  • Platoon: This 1986 film won director, Oliver Stone, an Oscar.
  • Patton: Patton, filmed in 1970, is still a classic.
  • Saving Private Ryan: Steven Spielberg outdid himself in his 1998 emotional epic about World War II.
  • The Hurt Locker: This 2008 film by Oscar-winning director Katheryn Bigelow is a poignant reminder of the challenges our American soldiers have faced in Iraq.
  • The Best Years of our Lives: This 1946 classic by director Sam Goldwyn remains one of the all-time best portrayals of the challenges returning soldiers face when trying to reintegrate into civilian life.

5. Donate your coupons (and/or coupon savings) to military families

It can be a great privilege to offer a small donation to those who endure life without their military loved ones as they serve. Here are two great ways to donate.

  • KCL's Military Coupons Donation Program: Did you know that KCL has a program allowing you to donate your expired coupons to overseas military and their families? You can donate manufacturer food and non-food coupons just by following the instructions in this link:
  • When you shop the Memorial Day sales, donate what you save. Memorial Day is a great time for retailers to offer deep discounts and drive sales. As you shop, keep a tally of what you have saved, then earmark that amount as a donation to an organization of your choice serving military families.

6. Adopt a Soldier

Finally, even if you don't have much (or any) extra in your account right now to make a financial donation, chances are you have some great products in your couponing storehouse that a soldier might really appreciate! When you adopt a soldier, you can write letters, send care packages, and more.

The Best Budget-Friendly Ways to Say “Thank You” to Our Troops on Memorial Day