UW Tacoma will remember the fallen this Memorial Day

UW Tacoma is hosting an enlightening Memorial Day event that focuses to educate, inspire and honor our fallen service members.

This year, to honor those who have fallen, UW Tacoma will be holding a Remembrance Ceremony for Memorial Day. The event will take place on May 25, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., in Tioga Library Building Atrium 307B. 

The event aims to educate people on Memorial Day observances and also campus traditions. It will offer insight on topics such as sacrifice, self-improvement and navigating life after the loss of a family member or friend who died in service to our nation. 

“A lot of people get confused,” said Juanita Murillo Garcia, Director of the Veteran and Military Resource Center on campus, “Veterans Day is for the veterans, Armed Forces Day is for active duty and Memorial Day is for those who have passed.”

The first national observance of Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, occurred on May 30, 1868. It was proclaimed as a day to honor the Union soldiers who had died in the Civil War. 

Now Memorial Day has transformed into a holiday to recognize those who have died in our nation’s wars. It serves as a dedicated day to reflect on the sacrifices required for our nation’s freedom. 

At the Remembrance Ceremony, Dominic Jay “DJ” Leon Guerrero Crisostomo, who serves as the Assistant Director of First Generation Student Initiatives at UW Tacoma, will be featured as the keynote speaker. He will be sharing his experience as a Gold Star Son. 

Garcia explained that both Gold Star and Blue Star families have a deep-rooted history that dates back to World War 1. At that time, families would display a blue star to signify that they had a loved one in active military service, making them a Blue Star family. If a family displayed a gold star, this indicated the loss of a loved one who died while serving in the military, making them a Gold Star family. 

Crisostomo’s father, Army 1st Sgt. Jose Crisostomo, was killed in a roadside blast in Afghanistan on August 18, 2009. Jose Crisostomo, who served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, is remembered as being an outstanding leader and having a heart of gold. 

Crisostomo will speak on his journey of finding solace and embracing resilience following the loss of his father. By sharing his personal experiences, he will help the audience learn to navigate the complexities of grief while still finding ways to honor and remember those who have passed. 

The event also aims to inspire individuals to expand their Memorial Day observance, moving beyond normal activities and embracing new ways to honor the fallen service members.

“This year we decided that we should explain other ways you can celebrate Memorial Day,” Garcia said. 

Some of the new ways people will be encouraged to celebrate Memorial Day include planting flags or flowers as symbols of remembrance, participating in Memorial Day walks or runs to honor fallen heroes, expressing gratitude to Gold Star Families for their sacrifice, watching military movies that depict the valor of service members or attending Memorial Day ceremonies to pay respects to those who died in service to our nation. 

According to Garcia, the event hopes to convey the message that by partaking in these new ways of celebration, not only does it offer respect to the fallen, but also offers support and validation to grieving families. 

She emphasized that they want to encourage people who may not be directly suffering from the loss of a loved one to still engage in these new forms of celebration. This is because the unity presented offers comfort to those who are personally grieving. She explained that this collective participation reminds families that their loved one’s sacrifice is not forgotten. 

“I think Memorial Day, for me, is not just about the service member, it’s about the family,” Garcia said, “It is about the family mourning the loss of their loved one.”