Veterans Day is my brother’s absolute favorite holiday. More than his birthday, more than Christmas, more than Election Day (my favorite!) That’s because my brother is a veteran of the 82nd Airborne. During his four-year stint with the army, he served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. My brother doesn’t talk about those experiences very often, but clearly no one should see the things he saw … or experience the things he experienced.
Veterans of our military sacrifice their innocence, time with their friends and family, their bodies and sometimes their lives to protect this country. Regardless of your thoughts on war, we’re all indebted to our troops. That’s why my husband and I created “Why We Celebrate” this past summer, to honor the military during Veterans Day. And, why we’re so proud to partner with the VFW Foundation this month on their “Return the Favor” campaign. The idea is simple: Take a couple minutes to share a thank-you note on the Foundation’s virtual wall. Follow this link, and then click the red button in the corner to write your note of gratitude. The goal is to collect 1100 letters. As I’m writing this, we’re nearing 300 — a good start, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
But, we shouldn’t just honor active-duty or retired military one day a year. With that, there are 10 ways you can show your appreciation year-round:
- Join the Soldiers’ Angels “Adopt a Veteran” program. Commit to sending one letter a week and one care package a month to a soldier deployed overseas.
- Say thank you. Those two words are so simple, but carry so much meaning. See someone wearing his/her uniform? Go out of your way to make sure they know how much you appreciate their sacrifice.
- If you’re not comfortable walking up to someone out of the blue to say thank you, be anonymous. When you see a uniformed soldier in the airport eating a pre-flight meal, track down the waitress and offer to pay the tab. I’ve done this a number of times. No one other than you and the waitress needs to know, but the soldier will definitely appreciate the gesture, and you’ll feel good knowing you did something to help.
- Support businesses that support veterans. Today, restaurants including Applebees, are offering free meals for veterans. Patron those establishments throughout the year and thank the manager for supporting vets.
- Visit veterans in the hospital. The Kansas City Chiefs visited the local VA hospital this week. You don’t have to be a football star to deliver a little cheer.
- Be a good friend/neighbor to the families of deployed military. When my brother was overseas, it meant the world when someone would ask me how he was doing … or when our church would add him to the prayer list. Just knowing that someone else was sending good vibes was comforting. If you know a family with brother, son, wife of mother serving overseas, invite the family over for dinner. Shovel their sidewalks. Mow the grass. Do something to pitch in and help.
- Volunteer at a local VA Center.
- Support veterans transitioning to civilian life. Going from the military world back to the “real world” can’t be an easy transition. One of my former clients created a program to help veterans re-enter the workforce. Can your business assist veterans as they ease back into day-to-day civillian life?
- Support the VFW Foundation. Today, they’re hosting a virtual wall, but they provide services year-round. One of my favorites is the VFW Operation Uplink program, which offers free phone time to deployed military so they can call home and talk to their families.
- It’s your turn: How will you commit to doing to honor veterans today and throughout the year?
Please remember to take a moment to leave a thank-you note on the VFW Foundation’s “Return the Favor” wall.
UPDATE 1: My sister-in-law just told me that she donates her free drink coupons from Southwest Airlines to military on the airplane or in the airport. Another easy way to show appreciation!
Update 2: Matt LaCasse works for the Boys & Girls Club of Western Missouri. To support today’s campaign and celebrate Veterans Day, they made a tribute video. If you watch one thing today, make it be this. There’s nothing like a bunch of 3rd and 4th graders to remind us why this holiday is special.