Memorial Day at the Kicker

Many things in America have become more about their celebration than their meaning. With Christmas, for example, we’ve heard folks complain about the crass commercialism of it for decades. Likewise many holidays have become simply a four-day weekend. Since Memorial Day is clearly about not forgetting something important, let’s take a shot at remembering what it means.

Originally celebrated May 30 regardless of the day of the week it fell on, Memorial Day is now pegged to the last Monday in May. It’s a day set aside by act of congress to honor Military service men and women who died in active duty.


A few decades ago, historians and cultural anthropologist were almost annoyingly accepting of different cultures and different eras. They got very clinical when discussing cannibals or more violent times in the distant past of Easter and Western culture. Now days, we rush to judge those who do things in a manner other than our own. We deem it unenlightened.

This intolerance of other cultures and our own past has made many holidays “problematic.” Is there potential for controversy with Memorial Day? Sure is. Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial day was born after Civil War (war between the states if you’re my grandma).

As early as 1860, people had begun to visit the graves of fallen soldiers in the spring to decorate them with flowers and say a pray over them. When the war ended in spring of 1865, it had claimed more American lives than any other conflict in US history, so it seems natural that the tradition took hold on both sides of the conflict. It was the Civil War that caused the first federal cemetery to be built.

Decoration Day

The practice of mourning solders in the spring seems to have sprung up spontaneously around the country in towns and cities of every size. Earliest recorded celebrations were in the south starting as soon as a month after the wars end. One in Charleston, South Carolina, was organized by a group of former slaves. In 1868 General John A. Logan called for a Decoration Day. There are records showing that Northern Cities embraced the practice by 1890.

Warrenton, Virginia, Savannah, Georgia, Jackson Mississippi, Columbus Georgia and Columbus Mississippi all began decorating graves in Spring around the same time in the America South. Of course Gettysburg lays some claim to the practice since Abraham Lincoln gave one of the most moving speeches of all time when he commemorated the graves there.

It was likely World War 1 and 2 that generalized the practice to include all armed services personal who died during war time and not just specific to the civil war.

In 1966, the fedral government declared Waterloo, New York the birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo had celebrated May 5th consistently since 1866, including the modern practice of closing business for the entire day.

Recent History of Memorial Day

It didn’t become a national Holiday until 1971. Many Americans observe the holiday by visiting cemeteries or memorials, gather as families, or participating in parades.

Side Note: It’s the unofficial beginning of summer.

The official remembrance part of memorial day is at 3 PM in each time zone, often marked with a moment of silence.

Memorial Day is for remembering those fallen in battle (or at least during active war.) There is also Veterans Day on November 11, which honors those who served–living or dead. Then there is the lesser known Armed Services Day which unofficially honors those currently serving in the military.

Most years there are Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery dating back to 1868. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is more often a location of ceremony on November 11th Veterans day. There are also ceremonies most years at the Vietnam War Memorial.

Memorial Day and Cars

This site exists to provide useful information to car enthusiasts and commuters, but we’ve been huge supporters of veterans since the beginning.

If we ignore the obvious Memorial Day connection to cars–the massive sales that go on that weekend–we are left with parades. You can ride a horse or march in a procession down a parade route but one of the most stylish, and easy on the feet, ways to participate in a parade is to ride in a convertible car with it’s top down.

Many parades involve floats which are motorized vehicles built onto a frame and motor. Some floats are decorated tractors, trucks or even golf carts. Most are purpose built. Most parade floats are self propelled although some are towed, usually by tractor or horse. Of course the goal of a float is to give the illusion that it’s floating on the surface street like a ship on the sea (hence the name). Therefore the vehicle is entirely covered by some kind of decoration.

Regardless of the base vehicle inside the float it must be heavily modified. For one thing, floats don’t need to go fast and do need to go very slow without stalling for long periods of time. So extra gears boxes are often required to make first gear smooth at 2.5 miles per hour. Extra radiators are added so the engine doesn’t overheat running low and slow for several hours. Finally the tires are filled with foam so they wont’ get a flat during the parade.

Many floats are large enough to require a second driver in a second cockpit to steer around blind corners. Also most floats are two level so a deck must be built by welding together steel tubing.

If there are animatronics, like arms or elevators, then hydraulics are employed to make the motion smoother. That means cylinders and pumps all driven off a second engine. You’ll also need a complex array of valves and a computer to control them. You’ll need gauges, manual controls, and of course monitors to see what the animatronics are doing.

Floats are considered moving sculptures and receive permits to use roadways that are event by event specific. Floats must gather in a location near the beginning and end of the route which takes a lot of logistics. Most parade organizers hire professionals to inspect floats prior to their use to avoid injuring an operator, passenger or observer along the route. Of course almost as bad as injury is a breakdown that causes a delay mid route.

As a rule, parade floats aren’t used more than once, although parts are salvaged and reused in future designs. Often floats are viewed before and after the parade in special display locations, before being towed back to the place they were built so they may be dismantled.

There is a National Memorial Day Parade that takes place along Constitution Ave.

These Military Programs Help Veterans Afford Reliable Cars

With millions of veterans retuning home each year, there is always a need for reliable resources that create an ease in returning to civilian life. Veterans often encounter hardships in obtaining basic needs like housing, employment, or even owning a reliable car. Having access to a reliable car is a necessity in everyday life and there are military programs that aid veterans in affording a reliable car.

Veteran’s Affairs Automobile Allowance

The Veteran’s Association provides many useful resources for veterans, especially when they return home, injured and disabled. Through the Veteran’s Affairs Automobile Allowance, disabled veterans with service-connected injuries qualify for financial support to purchase a specially equipped vehicle. This allowance is specific to disabled veterans that are in need of financial support to purchase an equipped vehicle.

Progressive’s Keys to Progress Program

As one of the largest companies that provides insurance, Progressive has utilized their platform to give back and get involved through their Keys to Progress Program. Each year starting in May, veterans can request an application through a non-profit organization or through their VA Caseworker. After applications and need eligibilities are determined, recipients of this one-day giveaway event are selected in September and receive their vehicles by November. Since 2013, Progressive has honored many veterans and provided transportation support through this program.

Navy Federal Credit Union

Credit unions offer great opportunities to stay financially healthy. For veterans, the Navy Federal Credit Union provides good research, information on buying or financing, and all that is needed to protect a car. Having all the information for buying a vehicle in one place, this credit union provides ease and accessibility for veterans to afford a car. With low interest rates, affordable car insurance, and other great benefits for military life, the Navy Federal Credit Union helps veterans afford reliable cars.

United States Automobile Association

When purchasing a car, auto insurance rates can be intimidating. A way for veterans to get discounts and savings on auto insurance is through the United States Automobile Association.

The USAA caters to the military by providing vehicle storage, military installation discounts, and other benefits related to automobile needs. Their website also offers online financial assistance, and free car insurance quotes. When seeking the best options for military car insurance discounts, the USAA is a good place to look.

Private Lenders

Another option for veterans is to consider affording a reliable car through getting a loan with a low interest rate. Private lenders like Omni Financial , and Pioneer Military Credit offer auto and personal military loans with low-interest rates. When using private lenders, doing some research and comparison shopping is important. Having a car already in mind will help the process and determine which rates offer the most affordability in the long run for purchasing a car.

Extended Warranty

Lastly, car dealerships and manufacturers offer a wide variety of options when purchasing a car. For veterans, one of the benefits that these companies provide with purchasing a reliable car is an extended warranty. Car warranties often save a lot money for repairs and maintenance, but there is often fine print in the agreements. Car manufacturer companies like Toyota, Subaru, and Nissan offer military appreciation benefits and incentives with car purchases.

An easy way to find warranty agreements for cars, is through an internet search. Similar to the use of private lenders, extended warranties should also be reviewed and researched in order to determine the best offer for an affordable and reliable car.

Make Use of the Available Help

Although the stress of being in the military life can cause hardships, exploring military appreciation options will help a veteran get back into civilian life. Over the years, veterans’ benefits have become more resourceful, and have given veterans the opportunity to find a reliable and affordable car.

This post is brought to you by Tire Kickers a major supporter of US Armed Services Veterans and by Sending Our Support NW (SOSNW) a Nonprofit Foundation that helps vets access the assistance they earned from private and federal sources.

Employing Veterans

The Kicker planned a quick update last memorial day, just to give a nod to the courageous men and women who serve us in uniform. We spoke recently with Duane Moore of Tire Kickers. Duane spearheads Tire Kickers plans to hire 20,000 veterans. The Kicker has previously talked about the plan to hire 18,000 veterans in this post.

For the plan to work two things need to happen. First Tire Kickers would need to go nation-wide. Tire Kickers is in the process of expanding it’s operation in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, California and Virginia. The need for ride share vehicle inspections has spurred a ton of growth for Tire Kickers. Duane anticipates the rate of growth to increase.

The second thing that would allow the plan to execute quickly, is for state and federal government to mandate car inspection when used cars are sold. Right now many dealerships voluntarily inspect the vehicles they intend to sell, which helps them not be personally responsible for the sale of unsafe vehicles. Where it falls short is when failing cars are resold at auction where less reputable dealer does sell the car. The other issue with allowing dealers to perform there own inspections is the inherent conflict of interest for any inspection employed by a dealer. It simply is not the final responsibility of a seller to verify the condition of a vehicle. It’s the buyers right and responsibility.

If all fifty states were to enact laws that required buyers to have a vehicle independently inspected, then lenders would begin to absorb that cost in the vehicle financing, and unsafe cars would be screened out of the market. From a consumer standpoint, car buyers would enjoy the benefit of full disclosure. Problems with a vehicle would come out, pre-purchase and the cost and responsibility of repair could be negotiated during purchase.

The awesome side effect of these laws would be that companies like Tire Kickers could employ returning veterans at a living wage, by the thousands. It’s time for America to do all that can be done to improve things for returning veterans. Or, as President Obama wrote to Duane, “As a country, we have the best-led, best-trained, and best-equipped military in the world. We must devote just as much energy and passion to making sure we have the best-cared for, best-treated, and best-respected veterans in the world. We all benefit from their efforts to build a stronger America and a brighter future for our kids–our commitment to them must match their service and sacrifice.”

President Obama completed his email with, “There’s more to do, and we’re going to have to work even harder. As Commander in Chief, I will keep striving to ensure we serve our veterans and their families as well as they served us.”

At The Kicker, we’ll be holding you to that, Mr. President.

You can learn more about current developments in Veteran Affairs at, www,, and, or by calling 1-800-827-1000.