Veterans Day is November 11, and while it’s a day off for many Americans, sometimes it’s a struggle to remember not only WHAT Veterans Day is, and how best to celebrate it.
Veterans Day (originally known as Armistice Day) is observed annually to honor military veterans – all persons who have served in the United States Armed Forces. It is different from Memorial Day in that it honors all veterans, not just those who have died while in military service.
There are many ways to celebrate, but here are ten simple ways to honor U.S. veterans and their service that keep the true meaning of the day in mind.
- Donate. Veterans Day is a terrific opportunity to donate to a charity or service organization that is actively helping veterans. It’s hard to know who to donate to with more than 40,000 charities in the U.S. but there are many organizations that operate in local communities that are well known. Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion, and the VFW are just a few – or you can use a site like charitynavigator.org to look at reviews and information on a wide range of charities.
- Be Silent. Since 2016, the Veterans Day Moment of Silence has been observed throughout the country. This two minute national moment of silence is a great way to pause quietly and join your thoughts with thousands of other Americans and remember the purpose of the day. The local time of the observation depends on your time zone, but it starts at 3:11PM Atlantic Standard Time.
- #BeThere. Suicide is a very real crisis faced by U.S. Veterans, with an estimated 20 veterans taking their own lives daily. Many of those who commit suicide are suffering in silence, disconnected from or unaware of the many support services available. #BeThere was launched by the VA and offers information including a video narrated by Tom Hanks, free 24-hour crisis hot lines, online chats, personal coaching, and other support. Sending an email or text or bringing a meal to a veteran can be exactly what they need to get through a difficult moment.
- Visit. As the population of U.S. veterans age, you’re likely to find more and more in your local nursing homes – both those run by the VA and also public nursing homes. Many of these facilities sponsor celebrations or services to honor their residents. Contacting them to see how you can participate – or just dropping off some treats or comfort items can be a good way to show you care. Take a moment to chat with one of the veterans in residence – they love to tell stories and often have few visitors.
- Volunteer. VA hospitals are always looking for volunteers to help make life a little easier for their patients. Many have a “wish list” of needs and welcome donations of time, money and items on their lists.
- Wear a poppy. If you’re not a veteran, wearing a red poppy or American flag pin on your lapel is a small but meaningful way to keep veterans in mind on their day. It can also help others remember the day when they see you – and signal to veterans that you have them in mind.
- Adopt. Veterans Day falls right before the winter holidays, which is a perfect time to adopt a military family. Many families are far from home – or have a parent deployed – and have limited incomes. The Adopt a Family program sponsored by Soldiers’ Angels allows civilians and companies to sponsor a family for the season. Each family goes through a thorough vetting and approval process and then are entered into a database. The sponsor provides a gift for each dependent child under the age of 18, as well as a gift card for groceries to help with a holiday meal.
- Stop. Although most military cemeteries and memorials get visits on Memorial Day, it’s still a good opportunity to stop by your nearest veterans cemetery or memorial and leave a small token of appreciation – or just take a few moments to pay your respects. Many will host ceremonies, and simply attending can be a great way to show your gratitude to the other veterans in attendance.
- Recognize. If your company has an internal newsletter or other form of communication consider highlighting the experiences of several veteran employees. This not only reinforces the value they bring to the civilian workplace, but reminds colleagues that veterans are people first, employees second.
- Listen. Often civilians are intimidated to inquire about the military service a veteran gave, but taking a moment to ask about their service, thank them for it, and listen to what they have to say about it can mean the world. Many lifelong veterans truly miss the camaraderie and structure of the military, while others perhaps re-entered civilian life without issue. Listen to their stories. Honor their sacrifices. Thank them for their service. You’ll likely be surprised at the conversations and friendships that will result.
Veterans Day is a day to honor those who’ve served our Nation. Consider the veterans in your life – at home or at work – as well as their spouses and families, and take a moment to show your appreciation for the freedoms and liberties we enjoy because of what they did while bravely wearing our country’s uniform.