Johnathan Thomas, MBA, PhD, D.DIV
Veterans Day is a day of appreciation for all of the brave men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces. We are proud of and grateful for our veterans all year long, but on this particular day, we make a special effort to thank them, to make sure they are taken care of, and to let them know that their service to our country will never be forgotten or taken for granted.
America’s veterans have certainly earned our undying appreciation. While veterans make up less than nine percent of the population, they are responsible for giving us the freedoms we have and enjoy in this country. Those courageous few who wore the uniform protected us and our liberty. They continue to do so today. For that great gift of freedom, and what they sacrificed to protect it, every American should be grateful for our veterans and take the time to show it on Veterans Day.
Unlike the more somber Memorial Day, which is a time to remember the fallen heroes who gave their lives for their country, Veterans Day is a celebration of the veterans who are still with us. It is a time set aside each year to honor the veterans among us, let them know that they are appreciated, respected, and never forgotten, and to thank them for having served. But showing one’s appreciation for our veterans can come in many different forms.
Let us take a look at eight ways you can show your appreciation for the brave men and women who served this Veterans Day!
8. Say “Thank You”
It sounds basic enough, but this simple gesture of actually saying “thank you for serving” to a veteran goes a long way. It is a way to let a veteran know that you acknowledge them and what they did for our country, that their service is not forgotten or overlooked, and that we are grateful to them for serving. Some veterans wear a hat that signifies when they served or what branch of the military they were in, though many veterans are not as easy to pick out of a crowd. When you see someone wearing a veteran’s hat, with a veteran bumper sticker or license plate, or other telltale sign, thank them for their service (all year long!) and especially say “thank you” to men and women who served on Veterans Day.
7. Be There
If there is a Veterans Day parade or service near you (and there probably is) make sure you show up! These events are special, and the more people who come to a parade to cheer on our veterans, the better. Veterans Day is, after all, one day a year set aside to honor veterans, so take the time to actually be there for your local veterans. If you are not sure what events are taking place, a quick call to the nearest American Legion or VFW can provide that information. And by calling your local veterans’ organization, you will probably find out about even more events happening where you can go an honor our veterans.
6. Write A Letter
Do you have a neighbor, coworker, family friend, or other acquaintance who is a veteran? You can write them a letter for Veterans Day letting them know that you are grateful for their service. Let them know what their service means to you. They served and fought for your freedom — tell them how you use that freedom, so they know they did not serve and sacrifice in vain. You can go a step further and ask if there is anything you can do for them, whether they need odd jobs around the house, some company or someone to talk to, or a way to honor them and other service members. If you do not know a veteran, you can still write some letters and send them to a VA hospital or veterans’ organization where they will find their way into the hands of a deserving veteran.
Get involved with your local veterans’ organization. You do not have to be a veteran yourself to help out, and volunteers are always welcomed. By volunteering to help with an event or an organization’s needs, you will meet some amazing people who wore the uniform and sacrificed for their country. You will also be doing your part to give back to those who already gave so much for you and all of us. Whether you can volunteer a lot or only a little, it is worth the effort to get involved and give back. There are so many great charities and organizations that work with veterans who could use your help.
4. Talk To A Veteran
Going a step further than just saying “thank you,” you can spend some time with a veteran and get to know them. Ask about their service — where and when they served, what they did in the military, what their favorite memories are — and learn their personal stories. Veterans are not all the same, but they all deserve to have their service recognized and remembered. Most veterans would be happy to pass on their experiences to another generation. And remember, you are not looking to get some great war stories (never ask a veteran if they have killed someone), you are getting to know them as a person. Their service is one part of their life, but not all of it.
A VA hospital or local nursing home will have veterans in need of some company, especially on Veterans Day. Take some time out of your day to visit those veterans who may otherwise be alone. Your company will be greatly appreciated, and you are sure to meet some amazing people you otherwise would not know. Visiting a veteran who is sick or elderly on Veterans Day is a great way to show your appreciation for their service. Remember, they sacrificed years of their life to protect you and your freedom; giving up a couple hours of your day does not seem like too much to ask.
2. Buy a Meal
Veterans Day is a special day to honor all the men and women who served, so if you see a veteran at a restaurant, you can anonymously pay for their meal. Maybe consider paying for a few cups of coffee at your local coffee house so that veterans can get a free drink when they come in. Any random act of kindness that you can do for a veteran on Veterans Day, do it! After all, it is their day. Just do so discreetly, since you are not doing it for the attention, and some veterans may be uncomfortable with the publicity. Just knowing that you have done something or given something to a veteran is more than worth it.
Above all, take some time on Veterans Day to actually remember our veterans. Do not let the day pass by without stopping to consider what so many brave men and women have done for our country. Read about some veterans’ service in the past, watch a documentary, or teach your children about how our veterans have protected our freedom and liberty for generations. Remember that we would not have our great nation if it were not for our veterans. Remember the sacrifices they made while serving — giving up time and opportunity to join the military, time spent away from family and loved ones, the blood and sweat they shed so that you wouldn’t have to.
On Veterans Day, remember our veterans.