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Memorial Day weekend presents a bizarre confluence of American traditions—kick off the summer party season with boozy barbecues, shop 'til you drop, and commemorate the men and women who have died serving our country at war. In the haze of grill smoke and the surging mall crowds, we sometimes forget to remember why we're not at work this Monday. Here are five strategies for celebrating the start of summer—while honoring American soldiers and vets.
Deck the lawn: To mark the start of many outdoor grilling opportunities, take this weekend to make your outdoor space more enjoyable. These cloth medallions from Martha Stewart are one way to liven up your outdoors. This is an easy project that can be replicated using fabrics you have lying around, turning that dingy cotton dress into a breezy outdoor trim. Outfit your lawn in yellow medallions for a Memorial Day touch.
Help your guests get outside of the house this summer to volunteer with America's vets. Set up a computer in your party area for guests to investigate volunteer opportunities through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Seeing stars: This summer presents not one but two totally appropriate opportunities to get decked out in kitschy patriotic threads—consider investing in these DIY star shorts from Nosh. Take some old shorts or jeans, and fashion a couple of large star stamps from sponge boards at the craft store (or smaller ones from the sponges in your kitchen). You can even use washable paints to return your shorts to their classic blue jean look after the weekend's through.
Encourage your craft buddies to bring more outdated threads to donate to the Vietnam Veterans of America, which collects used clothing to support vet programs throughout the United States. Schedule a pickup here.
Freeze up: Keep your guests cool with these dixie cup popsicles from Green Wedding Shoes. Blend fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices to get a garden variety of frozen treats. Toss them on ice in a bucket to keep them from melting in the summer sun.
Ask your guests to bring their own popsicle ingredients from their gardens and pantries—and to bring along some extra non-perishable food items to donate to your local veteran's food bank or homeless shelter.
Throw a punch: Watermelons are nature's punchbowls—naturally-sealed and lined with a fruity sweetner. Carve out this watermelon punchbowl from Hip Hostess, then freeze it pre-barbecue to keep your drinks cool while sitting outside.
Trade a punch cup to to guests who arrive with an item for Operation Gratitude's car package wishlist—the organization is always looking for extra green socks, plush toys, energy bars, travel-sized board games, candy, and razors to send to soldiers abroad.
Busy the less dexterous players in your group by stocking the sidelines with materials to pen handwritten notes to soldiers to tuck into your care packages. Or, encourage them to get a head start on the holidays by knitting a scarf or hat for a soldier—Operation Gratitude hopes to stock its holiday care package with upwards of 60,000 hand-knit winter accessories this year.