Veterans Day is an important day for showing appreciation to members of our military, past and present. If you’re looking for an appropriate way to honor a veteran in your life, or would like to contribute in a way that’s meaningful for veterans everywhere, here’s a list of suggestions to start you off.
1. Show Up
Attend a Veterans Day event in your area — not just a picnic with friends but an honest-to-good-
ness parade or service for veterans. Roy Rogers said, “We can’t all be heroes; someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.” Veterans Day is a great opportunity to do just that.
There are a plethora of wonderful organizations who offer all manner of support, services and appreciation for our service members. Here are just a few:
Disabled American Veterans
Disabled American Veterans (DAV) offers a variety of services to disabled veterans and their families. With more than 1.2 million members, DAV has tremendous reach and provides invaluable service to wounded veterans. DAV provides its members (veterans and their families) help with disability assistance, their VA pensions, job programs and more. It receives no government funding, so donations and gifts are crucial to keep providing services to veterans. DAV offers many ways to give back to the men and women who defended our country.
Wounded Warrior Project
Wounded veterans all require a different recovery process. The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) provides rehabilitation, activities and career counseling for our nation’s wounded warriors and their families. You can support the Wounded Warrior Project in a number of ways: by hosting a Supporter Event, sending letters to an injured service member, giving a monthly gift, or making a donation in honor of a loved one. This holiday season, WWP encourages supporters to establish employee giving drives by creating Casual Fridays, departmental competitions or office parties to benefit WWP.
Homes for Our Troops
Not everyone can give a monetary donation, so there are a number of charities that need volunteer assistance in addition to financial help. Homes for Our Troops uses volunteers to build homes or adapt existing homes to meet the needs of injured veterans. While the group does use grant money from the Veterans Administration, that often does not cover the cost of construction.
Don’t Forget About a Soldier’s Best Friend
Dogs are a big part of the lives of our soldiers and veterans. From military working dogs on the front lines to guide dogs providing safety and companionship for wounded veterans, military service dogs need love too. There are many programs to help provide for these brave dogs. Companies like Petco and natural pet food maker Natural Balance are offering special treats to raise money for a military service dog memorial. Working dogs have saved thousands of American lives and continue to impact the lives of thousands of veterans who have returned home.
Veterans definitely need a lot of assistance, but the USO provides a way to support active-duty troops. Though the USO does take cash donations to provide many services, there are better ways to support the troops during the holiday season. The holidays are a particularly tough time for many troops and their families. The USO offers USO Operation Phone Home, which delivers a $50 prepaid international calling card to troops, allowing them to make up to 140 calls home.
Operation Write Home
While active duty soldiers appreciate the huge amount of notes and letters they receive from citizens, many would prefer to be able to simply write home to their loved ones. Operation Write Home offers them that opportunity by sending blank, handmade greeting cards that service members can send back home, along with 20-30 letters of encouragement from citizens. OWH asks for supporters to donate money to help cover costs or to make their own card design to help brighten the correspondence of active military. Since 2007, nearly 2 million cards have been sent to soldiers overseas.
3. Fly a Flag – Correctly
Veterans Day is a great opportunity to fly the flag! Just make sure you’re observing the proper rules for display. Not sure exactly what those are? Go to http://www.military.com/flag-day/us-flag-code.html to see correct flag protocol.
4. Ask Someone About their Service
It seems like we all know someone who has served and Veterans Day is a great time to ask them about their service. Some questions to get started are: What did you do in the military? How long did you serve? What was your favorite moment in all your time in the service? Did anyone else in your family serve? Why did you choose to go into the service branch you did? Do not ask if they’ve killed anyone and should your veteran be a combat vet who is either unwilling to share or plainly states what they went through, be supportive without being intrusive. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything, just listen and give them your full attention.
If you know a veteran, write a simple postcard or e-card that recognizes them on Veterans Day. If you don’t know a veteran, look up the closest military installation and send one there. Small acts of recognizing someone’s service, even anonymously, are appreciated.
6. Don’t Confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day
Veterans Day is a time to thank those who are serving or have served and are still with us. Memorial Day is to reflect and remember those who lost their lives in service to their country. Confusing the two or combining the two diminishes the importance of both.
7. Visit a VA Hospital
Find out what the policies are at your nearest VA hospital for interacting with patients or volunteering, and spend the day with a veteran. Many VA facilities will have events on Veterans Day or a special lunch you can help prepare. Even if you never interact with a veteran, helping at a facility is a way to give back.
8. Get Outdoors with a Veteran
Invite a veteran or a military family to explore a national park — admission is free for all visitors on Veterans Day. Being outside helps improve physical and mental health, boosts emotional well-being, and is a great way to celebrate the day with a veteran.