As Veteran’s Day approaches, so does another opportunity to consider how our volunteer-filled military impacts all of our lives. We live in an age where the impact of war waged is hardly seen in everyday society.
Veteran’s Day reminds us war is not as far off as it may feel. It allows civilians who are shielded from the realities of war to tip their hats to those who are not. It’s not just about giving credit where credit is due — though that’s certainly a major part of it; it’s about taking a day to reorient culturally and remember the cost of living in a society where the price of freedom isn’t always obvious.
Look for ways to actively participate in community efforts to appreciate veterans near you. Will Rogers famously said, “We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.” On Veteran’s Day, take the time to attend the parade where your community honors those who have served.
Throughout the year, look for events with veterans in mind. If you live near a VA hospital, consider inquiring about volunteer opportunities. At the very least, most have Veteran’s Day activities where civilians are welcome.
For those with the financial resources available, the good news is that there are a wide array of organizations in need of donations. You can find organizations and programs tailored to provide all kinds of support, services, and appreciation for veterans.
Some solid choices include:
- Homes For Our Troops, which provides specially adapted homes for severely disabled veterans.
- The Wounded Warrior Project, which empowers wounded veterans via rehabilitation, activities, and support.
- Disabled American Veterans, which provides services and help to disabled veterans and their families. They’re a leader in connecting disabled vets with jobs that will serve them over the course of their post-service careers.
- USO Operation Phone Home, which supports active-duty service members by delivering prepaid phone cards to deployed service members.
- The National Military Family Association, which is a nonprofit dedicated to serving the families of those who have served or are currently serving.
Start a Dialogue
Again, the current cultural climate means it’s difficult for those who do not come into frequent contact with the military to fully grasp the realities of service. One way to show honor is to make an effort to bridge that gap.
Strike up a conversation with a veteran, and refrain from asking questions that require them to communicate the most horrific parts of their service. Instead, ask how long they served, where, and what their job was. Those types of questions will likely get the ball rolling in a helpful manner.
Additionally, you can take the time to send a card or letter to a veteran you know this Veteran’s Day. Even if you do not personally know anyone, you can write to deployed service members or veterans via Operation Gratitude.
Get Outside With Them
One of the best ways to connect with a veteran or military family is to go outside with them. On Veteran’s Day, all national parks offer free admission to the public. Going outside is good for individual wellness and makes relational ties stronger.
If you aren’t sure how to connect with an someone or a family you know, this could be the perfect avenue. Consider hosting a weekend RV adventure to your nearest national park in the interest of promoting good health and good fun.
Don’t Get Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day Mixed Up
A guaranteed way to communicate the fact that Veteran’s Day isn’t a big a deal to you is to confuse its meaning. Every Veteran’s Day and every Memorial Day there are hoards of people who demonstrate that they don’t understand the difference between the two days.
Veteran’s Day is for honoring those who have served. Memorial Day is specifically for those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Taking the time to understand the distinct significance of the two is an easy but important way to demonstrate that showing appreciation is worthwhile to you.
Few veterans showcase their service loudly, and even fewer go so far as to ask for recognition. Usually, you’ll find the opposite; most are likely to be private and to quietly go about their lives.
To some degree, that reality lends itself to the disconnect between civilian and military families. But, striving to bridge that gap in ways that communicates their service is seen, appreciated, and valued is important.
Fostering unity between the two communities is one of the most crucial parts of a free society that depends upon the service of volunteers.
Posted by C.N. Moore, military spouse, parent, and writer