What comes to mind when you think about Memorial Day?

If we’re being honest, for many of us, Memorial Day is about getting a day off. It’s the official herald of summer, signaling the opening of community pools and the permission of the fashion police to wear white again. It’s an excuse to have a barbecue, hopefully get the day off work, and grumble about the banks being closed. Even the more patriotic of us will probably only go so far as observing a moment of silence and sharing a huge American flag photo on their Facebook Feed.

But Memorial Day is a sober holiday. Formerly referred to as “Decoration Day,” this federal holiday was set aside as a day to remember men and women who have died in service of our country. These fallen heroes gave the ultimate sacrifice in their quest to make a difference in the world. So shouldn’t we also seek to make a difference on the one day each year we set aside to honor them?

Here are five ways you can honor fallen heroes on Memorial Day:

1. Instead of heading straight to the local pool… make a visit to a nearby nursing home, or an elderly parent or grandparent, and chat with them for the afternoon. Especially if they are veterans, they may really treasure having someone take time to listen to their stories and experiences.

I have a distinct memory of doing just this sort of thing with my mother. She was a deacon in our church, and many parishioners on her branch were elderly and alone. She would regularly make trips to check on them and visit, sometimes bringing my sister and me along. Once we went to visit an elderly couple; the wife was struggling with dementia, and her husband was her caretaker and loving companion. I remember sitting on the floor of their living room as the gentleman talked to us about his experiences in WWII. He was in Asia for most of his service, an area often overlooked by historians focusing on Hitler and Europe. He had fascinating tales to tell of battles won and lost, and was clearly delighted to have eager listeners for his stories.

2. Instead of splashing the U.S. flag all over social media… give yourself -or your kids- a lesson on the history of the U.S. flag. Research the facts and fictions about Francis Hopkinson and Betsy Ross, and find a timeline describing (or showing!) the various designs the US flag has boasted.

You can also research the proper rules and regulations for handling and respecting an official flag. Displaying proper etiquette of the flag is a wonderful way to honor servicemen and women (both past and present) and the history and traditions of this country. Perhaps even do an Internet search to see if there are any historic flags in your area, and plan a visit.

3. Instead of heading outside and throwing burgers on the grill for your family… offer to cook dinner for the family of a veteran, serviceman, or servicewoman of your acquaintance. It could be a family member, neighbor, or someone who attends your church. Most of us know at least a few people who have served (or are serving) in the military. Food can be the perfect labor of love: it’s a necessary nourishment, but also the perfect opportunity to fellowship and socialize! Especially if you’re not particularly close with the family, this gesture would be hugely kind – and probably something the family would fondly remember for years to come.

(If cooking isn’t your love language, you could always offer to treat them to a dinner out at a favorite restaurant in appreciation of their service.)