I served in the Navy and left active service about 20 years ago; my husband served for 20 years, before leaving service to be around more for our growing children. We have good friends and "family" from our time in service, and we have some friends we've lost in those years. During those years, I also helped write memorial books for the families of five members of the Chinook community who were shot down in Afghanistan.
Memorial Day was created to honor those fallen, in whatever way they left us.
In Israel there is a Memorial Day as well. They call it Yom HaShoah, and the evening before, the television stations are all turned to memorial shows about the Holocaust, public entertainment venues are closed for the day, and memorial events are held by the government, military, and at schools. At 10 air raid sirens sound around the country, and cars, pedestrians, bicyclists... nearly everyone... stops what they are doing for two minutes of silence.
In the United States, we have people who join together to place flags on graves, we have memorials at churches, our flags are at half mast, and elected officials place wreaths at sacred grave sites like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
And though we should do things to honor their memories, Memorial Day is not a day they would want us to spend in mournful misery;
they had their barbecues and pooltime, and beach trips on the long Memorial Day weekends before they passed. While you're meeting with friends, do take some time. Celebrate the veterans in your life while they're still here to celebrate - call some veterans and ask them to tell you their stories about those they served with; reminisce with veterans in homes for the elderly. Remind them that they still matter, whether they are in active service or out in the civilian world.
Follow it up with two minutes of silence with a community; place flags or flowers on grave sites; read about the events of the days gone past when our lost soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines died.