How to Write a Memorial Day Speech
Memorial Day, once called Decoration Day, is the day the United States of America sets aside each year to remember and honor the men and women who have died in the service of their country. Memorial Day ceremonies often take place in cemeteries with American flags flying and a military gun salute. Those who speak talk about the price of freedom and the bravery of American soldiers, sailors and airmen who served, fought and died for freedom as well as to protect their loved ones. A speech for Memorial Day needs to incorporate these aspects of the solemn holiday.
Start writing your Memorial Day speech from the reason you were asked to write, and maybe deliver, the speech. You may be a veteran, the spouse of a veteran or the spouse or family member of a fallen soldier. You may be a dignitary, pastor, rabbi or cleric. If you are a dignitary, write how honored you are to have young men and women from your jurisdiction willing to give their lives to protect their country. As a veteran yourself, you can share some of your feelings about serving and about losing your comrades. As a spouse of a veteran, share your pride in your spouse. Religious leaders are expected to acknowledge a higher power. Start from who you are.
Relate true-to-life anecdotes. Share stories about those whom you honor on Memorial Day. Ask family and friends for insight into the lives of real soldiers who have lost their lives in the service of their country. Make these fairly short, with a mixture of sad, poignant and sweet; you may even add just a touch of humor, if appropriate. Bring the soldiers to life through these stories, as Memorial Day is a day of remembrance. Your speech helps families remember the positive as well as the negative aspects of the day. Write about heroic actions and human decisions, such as saving the life of an animal caught in a war situation.
Write your heart into the speech. A Memorial Day speech isn't just about holiday facts or wars fought. It isn't just about warm, fuzzy stories about brave soldiers. To make the speech draw a heartfelt response, you need to interject your own responses to Memorial Day. Add to the stories of those honored, your own experiences with one or more of the soldiers, your love for the U.S., what it offers its citizens and why it is important to defend and protect the ideals of freedom. Write about the sacrifice not only of the soldiers themselves, but also of their families.
Write about the soldiers who didn't die, but who live with the consequences of war, including trauma both physical and emotional. If you have personal understanding of this trauma, add your own knowledge. Explain that these soldiers live with the death of their comrades-in-arms as well as with memories that may keep them from sleep at night. Finally, encourage those present not to forget the fallen soldiers, but also not to forget those soldiers still living.
Carolyn Scheidies has been writing professionally since 1994. She writes a column for the “Kearney Hub” and her latest book is “From the Ashes.” She holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where she has also lectured in the media department.