By Amy Miller, AFC®
With Veteran’s Day this week, I started writing this with the thought of creating a list of the different ways to honor our vets. My intention was to do my research and come up with a list of simple things we could all easily do. I went to some of my normal sources and started jotting down ideas. There were several good ones out there, including the highly anticipated list of restaurants offering free meals each year.
Then I attended a Homeless Veteran’s Stand-Down on Friday. Afterward, I decided to take this in a little different direction. (No worries – I will still include a link to those restaurants everyone wants at the end.)
The event was hosted by a local workforce board that has individuals focused on assisting veterans facing “significant barriers” with resources and ultimately employment. Throughout the day, there were almost 50 veterans that attended the event, which was about half of their normal attendance – they believe rain, cold weather, and the pandemic kept many from attending. The event provided medical & dental check-ups, clothing, food, tents, blankets, shoes, and connections with area organizations that offer support as well. There were active-duty Airman from our local base on hand to escort them around the event and to ensure they received all they needed.
I was on meal duty for the day – serving breakfast biscuits in the morning and then BBQ & Pizza lunch in the afternoon. As I handed out plates and drinks, I couldn’t help but notice that out of all the things the veterans were given that day, it seemed – to me – what they were most grateful for, was the time spent having a meal and talking with others. I heard them sharing their stories……stories about their service, their families, their disabilities, hardships, and joys. Hearing this reminded me of the true needs of our veterans and prompted me to re-work my list in order to highlight these issues.
Here’s my list of a few things to consider doing – some small, some not. I hope you find them helpful, inspiring, and motivating in a way that leads you to step out of your norm – your comfort zone – and spend some time truly honoring a veteran.
- Don’t confuse Veteran’s Day with Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a day for honoring military members who have died in service, Veteran’s Day, originally called Armistice Day, honors the service of ALL America’s veterans.
- Fly your Flag Correctly – you can find flag etiquette here: https://www.aflag.com/flag-etiquette/
- Attend an event honoring veterans in your area like a parade, celebration, or stand-down.
- Donate! There are several organizations that support veterans. Wound Warrior Project, Hope for the Warrior, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Operation Homefront and Homes for our Troops just to name a few. Look for local organizations in your area – rescue missions, homeless shelters, food pantries, etc. According to the VA, there is an estimated 37,000+ homeless veterans in the US. (That equals 8 homeless per 1000 vets). 45% suffer from mental illness. PTSD, social isolation, unemployment, and substance abuse are the leading causes of homelessness. 91% are male and 50% are over 51 years of age. More than 1 in 10 are diagnosed with substance abuse issues. Most of these individuals seek services from local organizations.
- Visit a VA Hospital. Many will have planned events on Veteran’s Day that you can volunteer for or attend.
- Write a thank you note to veterans. We Honor Veterans offers Veteran to Veteran letters of thanks that can be downloaded and printed. You can find them here: https://www.wehonorveterans.org/blog/veteran-to-veteran-letters-of-thanks/
You can also download an appreciation/recognition certificate here:
- My personal favorite – Ask someone about their service, giving veterans an opportunity to tell their stories. Respect their service, their feelings and show appreciation. Studies show that significant impacts can be made to overcome an individual’s barriers when just 1 person shows an interest in their wellbeing.
- Finally, support leaders and legislation that support veterans.
Again, I hope you find this list of things inspiring and that it motivates you on November 11th. I truly feel that they are meaningful and a little more impactful than saying Happy Veteran’s Day via a free spaghetti dinner. Not knocking spaghetti & who doesn’t like a free meal – just want to emphasize that true honor comes when we take care of the real needs of those that have served our nation. With that said, I will leave you with this…….
“We don’t know them all, but we owe them all.” – unknown
And, as promised, here is a list from Military.com of the many restaurants offering a free meal this Thursday. Enjoy!