7 Ways to Show Your Appreciation this Veterans Day
Veterans Day holds a special place in my heart. I come from a strong lineage of combat veterans, so I have experienced how much even a simple act of appreciation can mean someone to who has sacrificed for our country.
With over 20 million living veterans in the US, (3.1 million of whom are post-9/11), you will likely come across a veteran in your hometown, workplace, or at some point in your daily life. Today, most people have the utmost respect and feel some level of gratitude to today’s veterans, but sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly how to express it.
While military appreciation can come in many forms, here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Visit a VA Hospital
Unfortunately, many vets are facing injury, illness, or unseen struggles alone. A great way to show your appreciation for those who may not have family who can visit is by stopping by a local VA Hospital. Even just a few hours of games, conversation, or lively company can mean more than you would imagine.
Find out what the policies are for visitation and interaction with VA patients or how you can volunteer year-round; not just on Veterans Day. You can get started by filling out the volunteer form on the US Department of Veterans Affairs website.
2. Fly a Flag – Correctly
You don’t have to make a big statement or commitment to show your appreciation for all the men and women in uniform who have sacrificed to serve in the armed forces. Something as simple as flying a flag outside your home or workplace can speak volumes about your support.
It’s important to keep in mind that the United States Flag has specific guidelines defining how to fly our nation’s flag correctly. It may seem like a minor detail but making sure to adhere to the U.S. Flag Code is very important to those who have fought to defend it.
3. Donate to a Worthy Cause
There are so many volunteer organizations that support our veterans in a wide variety of ways. These groups offer a range of support types from addressing specific needs through general assistance for wounded and disabled vets or just assisting in their transition stateside. From funding support animals to helping disabled veterans, researching a veteran-focused charity organization is only a few clicks away.
If you want to support veterans and servicemen and women this November (or any time during the year), Military.com gives a list of organizations which would be a good place to start.
4. Spend Time with A Veteran and Ask About their Service
Chances are, you know or interact regularly with someone who is a veteran. If they are willing to talk to you about their service, you’ll likely learn a lot about this person you would not have known before. 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?
In the event that he or she is unwilling to share their experience, remember to be supportive and not intrusive about their service. They will appreciate the thoughtfulness behind you asking and will be grateful for your patience and understanding. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything, just listen and give them your full attention.
If nothing else, invite them to dinner, to go bowling or some other shared activity. There is nothing better than shared quality time among good company!
5. Show Up / Show Support
While it may be difficult to attend the annual New York City Veterans Day Parade, there are often many local Veterans Day events and parades you can attend and show your support. If you’re looking for ways to show your support and appreciation throughout the year, there are many ways to help a local vet.
Volunteer to visit or feed the homeless; as many homeless Americans are veterans, so volunteering at a local shelter is almost certain to assist a local veteran. Another great way to help is by training your pet to be a support animal to visit retirement homes and hospitals; dogs are great companions who bring joy for recovering vets, or you can volunteer with the USO; a group which welcomes troops home among other incredible outreaches for men and women in service uniforms.
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6. Educate Yourself and Loved Ones
Take the time to learn about what kind of sacrifices military members and their families make every day to protect our country and its citizens. Read books about veterans to your kids, visit memorials and museums dedicated to the sacrifice of US Servicemen, or invite veterans to speak at schools or community events. Sometimes just having and spreading awareness of the selfless choice veterans made can be a great show of appreciation.
7. Don’t Confuse Veterans Day and Memorial Day
If nothing else, do not confuse Veterans and Memorial Day. Confusing the two or combining the two diminishes the importance of both, and especially because most Veterans have close friends and loved ones who are honored on Memorial Day – this can be very upsetting for them. In case you aren’t aware of the difference: Veterans Day is a time to thank servicemen and servicewomen who are currently serving or have served and are still here to be honored. Memorial Day is to reflect and remember those who lost their lives in service to this country.
Read next: Your Brand’s Guide to Advertising During Military Appreciation Month