Most Americans are familiar with Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day and was observed on November 11 because World War I ended at 11:00 A.M. on November 11, 1918. President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially proclaimed November 11 to be Veterans Day in 1954. Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, has been observed as far back as the Civil War, but it was made an official federal holiday in 1971.
Special events are held across the nation on Veterans Day and Memorial Day to recognize and honor those who have served or lost their lives in service to our country. Many schools and businesses close for both days and social media sites are busy as businesses and individuals post countless pictures of flags. We may feel as if we have done our civic duty until next year, but is it really enough? Does waving a flag, or for most of us, posting a picture of a flag, really make an impact? Most of us don’t know that there is also a Military Spouse Appreciation Day established by President Ronald Reagan as the Friday before Mother’s Day. In addition, the month of November is Military Family Appreciation Month. With so many opportunities to show our support and appreciation, what are some practical things we can do that might really make a difference?
- Say “Thank You” in words and deeds
According to the U.S. Census, there are over nineteen million veterans in our country and more than nine million are over 65 years old. When you see someone in uniform or someone wearing a veteran’s cap, thank them for their service and shake their hand. Offer to buy their meal if you are in a restaurant. One women did this recently in a Kentucky restaurant only to be told that another customer had already picked up the check.
Thank the family, too. Families of service members manage alone while their spouse or parent is gone for long stretches at a time for training or deployment. They know the risk and fear that comes from being a military family and should be recognized for their commitment and support.
On Memorial Day, if you know the spouse of a deceased service person, send a “Thinking of You” card. On Veterans Day, send a card to thank a member of the military for their service, past or present. In today’s world of email communication, a handwritten note received in the mail is very special.
Many VA facilities host events on Veterans Day. If you have never attended an event, make this your year or better yet, volunteer at the event. When you see a veteran at a veteran’s event, it might be an appropriate time to ask them what they did in the military, where they served, or for how long. Many people actively show support of the troops by showing up at the airport to welcome troops home. This is a great way to show them that they are loved and remembered. It can also be very gratifying to see them return safely home to their loved ones.
- Send or take a care package
Many organizations collect needed items to send to troops in active duty. Another easy way to send a care package is to contact the military base nearest you. Also, if you hear of someone who is away in the service, take a care package to their family. It can be something as simple as having a pizza delivered or giving a gift card to a local restaurant.
- Encourage hiring of veterans
According to U.S. Veterans Magazine, approximately 200,000 service members return to civilian life each year. These men and women need employment, and they make great employees. Veterans have leadership qualities, strong work ethic, and dependability that employers seek in their workforce. The training received in the military gives veterans the ability to meet deadlines and take responsibility seriously. If you own a business or know someone who does, promote and encourage the hiring of returning service members.
Many people in Europe observe two minutes of silence at 11 A.M. on November 11. If you are one to pray, pray for those away from home serving our country and the loved ones they left here. Also, pray for our nation’s leaders who make decisions that affect those who serve in the military.
- Display the flag correctly
Flying the flag properly shows respect. Flag etiquette was established by the Federal Flag Code and includes days the flag should be flown at half-staff.
Many soldiers stationed on base can’t get leave time during the holidays to go home or home may be too far away. They would love a place to go and a special holiday meal. There are several groups that make all the arrangements for you or contact the military base nearest you.
It’s been said that “Freedom is not free.” We depend on the millions of men and women in our armed services to defend our way of life. They deserve so much more than a flag on our porch or a post on social media. Make this the year you show a new level of support and appreciate to our military members and their families.