Happening today is a holiday held dear to the heart of all Americans. It’s Veterans Day. We’ve been celebrating this day for quite some time now; since Nov. 11, 1938, marking the day that Veterans Day became a national holiday. First known as “Armistice Day”, the holiday marked the end of World War I in 1918 (eleventh day, eleventh month, eleventh hour), according to Inc. Veterans Day is a time of honor and remembrance–it’s when you recognize the sacrifices of the U.S. military members who have served in our wars. Veterans have given so much to our country, it’s only natural to want to give back in some way. There were 20.4 million U.S. veterans in 2016 according to data from U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The same data found that Gulf War-era veterans now account for the largest share of all U.S. veterans. You might be asking yourself exactly how you can give back to the community. It’s actually pretty easy to do so. If you want to honor a veteran in your life or just honor veterans in general on this special day, here’s a list of ways to start, courtesy of Military.com.
- Show up – There will be Veterans Day events and sales happening everywhere. Attend some of them. There will be parades and other service opportunities for veterans. Local veterans groups will be marching to commemorate the day. The parades will be happening all over the country on Nov. 11 (today) so get out there and get involved. If you’re looking for deals, check out U.S. News.
- Donate – There are so many amazing organizations out there. Find them and donate to them. All of these organizations offer support, services, and appreciation to our service members. If you need some help getting started on where to donate, check out this page. It’s the most sensible way to say “thank you” to a veteran.
- Fly a flag, correctly – Fly a flag high and proud today. But make sure you’re doing it the right way. Observe the rules for proper display. If you aren’t sure what those are, check out some guidelines here.
- Ask someone about their service – If you know someone that was in the military, it’s okay to ask them questions about their service. Ask questions like: what did you do in the military? How long did you serve? Did you have a favorite moment in the service? Did anyone in your family serve? What inspired you the enlist in the military? Why did you choose to go with the branch that you did? Try to avoid sensitive questions, such as about combat.
- Write – Start up a penpal. Whether it’s online or through the mail, set up a correspondence with a veteran. If you know a veteran, make sure to think of them on this day and send them a card or an e-card. If you don’t know a veteran, look up the closest military installation and send one there. Even small acts like these are massively appreciated by our military.
- Don’t confuse Veterans and Memorial Day – One happens in spring, and one happens in winter. Both commemorate different things: while Veterans Day celebrates the service of the military, Memorial Day is about the loss of 62,000 soldiers during the Civil War, according to Inc. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, while Veterans Day is a day of appreciation.
- Visit a VA hospital – Find out what the nearest VA hospital is to you and volunteer to spend some time with a veteran. On Veterans Day, many hospitals will be holding special events and lunches for the patients there. Helping at a facility, even if you don’t spend time with a veteran, is a really good way to give back to the community.
- Get outdoors with a veteran – Most likely, there’s a veteran in your life. Explore a national park with a veteran or a military family. Admission to parks are free on Veterans Day, meaning it’s one less thing you have to worry about. Not only is it good for the physical and mental wellbeing, but it’s also a really good way to celebrate the day with a veteran.
There’s going to be all kinds of events happening today to commemorate veterans. Whether it’s a parade, a picnic or some kind of service event, make an effort to give back to those who have served our country. Wherever you are, just take the time to stop and say thank you to a veteran.