Like the men and women who have died while in military service, we, too, must display noble discipline when it comes to paying our respects at grave sites this Memorial Day.
But decorum needn't be strictly somber.
"The cemetery is really a place of life," says Robert Tips, chairman and CEO of Mission Park Funeral Chapels and Cemeteries in San Antonio, Texas.
Tips says cemeteries are a lot like churches — hallowed ground where faith and family are celebrated. So don't be surprised if you spot the occasional picnic basket or crayon drawing along with American flags fluttering in the breeze.
Cemeteries usually have ground rules posted. Just the same, it can be a fine line between reverence and revelry. Here are a few etiquette guidelines to make your Memorial Day visit to a lost loved one dignified as well as heartwarming.
Parents should educate their kids that a cemetery is a place of reverence and respect, not a playground, Tips says. No running or playing on grave markers.
Even though decorations at a private cemetery can be less formal than those at a military cemetery, respect still must be paid, he says. At many cemeteries, children's drawings, notes or other special messages and decorations are usually allowed during holidays, though small fences, glass items and solar lights are restricted.
If you have a picnic at a cemetery, be discreet. "I've seen people set down a blanket and have a sandwich and have a cold drink," Tips says. "As far as actually having a barbecue or that sort of thing, we don't do that."
Aside from service animals, pets should be left at home.
Do not play loud music from your car or a portable music player.
Obey posted speed limits while driving through a cemetery and park so you don't obstruct traffic.
National cemeteries, with their uniform headstones, have additional regulations:
Statues, vigil lights, breakable objects or similar commemorative items are not permitted on graves at any time. Likewise, unauthorized tributes — including those with flags — will be removed, as will any items deemed unsightly.
"It's mainly to maintain the dignity of the cemetery," Houston National Cemetery director Arleen Ocasio says. Such objects also could damage headstones and interfere with mowing and trimming around graves.
Picnics are not allowed.
Fresh flowers may be placed at graves in national cemeteries at any time, though they may not be secured to headstones or markers.
Permanent plantings are not permitted at graves.
Rules about artificial flowers vary by cemetery.
Pick-up dates are usually posted so families can reclaim personal items if they wish.
Walking on graves is permissible. It's often unavoidable at a national cemetery where headstones are so close together. To minimize treading on graves, Ocasio recommends walking between headstones straight forward. To ease your conscience, she suggests saying a few nice words to those you pass in the process. Also, don't kick up any earth.
For specific floral and ground regulations at a national cemetery, call or visit www.cem.va.gov and click on Find a Cemetery.
And wherever you are this Memorial Day, Ocasio urges you to pause at 3 p.m. for a national moment of remembrance of those who served our country.
"We're here because of them," she says.