Fourteen years ago, just days before Memorial Day, Carmella LaSpada encountered a group of school kids touring Washington, D.C. and asked them what they knew about Memorial Day.
It wasn’t an unusual thing for LaSpada to ask. As founder of ‘No Greater Love,’ a non-profit organization dedicated to memorializing fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, LaSpada was given to such questions. Still, she said in a phone interview, their answer surprised her. “It's the day the pools open,” the kids told her.
After that, an inspired LaSpada worked with Congress to establish the National Moment of Remembrance when, at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, Americans are asked to take a minute out of their holiday to think of those “who died for our freedom.”
Eventually appointed Executive Director of the White House Commission on Remembrance, LaSpada wondered if there were better ways to reach young Americans. Enter intern Joshua Ford, who knew Facebook, with its 400-million plus active users, was the way to go.
Two weeks ago, Ford contacted the world’s largest social network and together with the Commission and developer Involver, Facebook is debuting a Memorial Day campaign to remember the more than 2 million American soldiers who have died in service — from the Revolutionary War up to today.
“The hope is to get as many Facebook users as possible to update their status with a message that honors a soldier and the war in which they fell as a casualty,” a Facebook spokesperson stated via e-mail. “Users can push a button to pay tribute to a soldier selected randomly from a database provided by the White House, or if they’d rather honor a loved one, they can insert specific information (name, war involved in, etc.) to create their status.”
Once the application is accessed, user status will read: “For Memorial Day, I would like to honor (name) who died for our freedom in the (war name). Join me in remembering all our heroes and let us live honoring our fallen every day. Click below to honor a hero in your status and join me, wherever you are at 3 p.m. to pause for the National Moment of Remembrance in this act of national unity.”
The application, which officially goes live on Memorial Day, is being promoted by other government and U.S. military Facebook pages including the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Dept. Of Defense, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, the White House and President Barack Obama's page.
According to Ford, the Facebook statuses will be broadcast over the Pentagon’s channel so those serving overseas or other places without Facebook access can share the event.
Getting the word out, Ford, the intern, says the National Moment of Remembrance Facebook application is getting a lot of enthusiastic feedback from those serving in the military. One Army priest told Ford he’d be e-mailing families of those who recently lost someone in service.
Facebook projects that the Remembrance app could reach 5 million users, Ford said. That's just a drop in the bucket on the social network, Ford and LaSpada said they hope it reaches more. “Honoring our fallen and our heroes should not be something only our grandfathers do,” Ford said.
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