There are many times throughout the year that we may feel compelled to thank a veteran for his or her service. For example, Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day always attract a flurry of activity; the 4th of July is another holiday that often reminds us to consider the sacrifices of servicemen and women.
So how can you go about actually honoring a veteran on these days, or any day of the year? There are many simple, easy, and affordable ways to show you are thinking of veterans. Below are our top six.
Visit your local cemetery. Bring an honored tradition from Arlington National Cemetery to your own city by decorating the graves of local veterans with a small flag or a wreath. Many tombstones, especially those of older generations, may no longer have loved ones to tend to them. Even a little clearing or care once a year is a simple way to honor the memory and life of a veteran. Your town may also have a local memorial or monument for veterans; check with your public officials to see how and if you can help by cleaning it or maintaining the grounds around it.
Honor your own heroes. Your children, especially if they are school age, may be learning about American history and may be familiar with the most well-known veterans and battles. Do they know, however, stories from your own family’s heroes? Take the time today to gather photos and stories from your parents, grandparents, and beyond, and share them with your family. If you have veterans still living in your family, perhaps arrange a time where they can sit and share stories with the whole family, or sit with them individually and capture the conversation in a recording. Consider writing a list of questions and conversation starters to spark memories, especially for older veterans.
Post your appreciation. While many people enjoy the ease of social media or posting their appreciation to veterans, there is something to be said about taking the time to create a hard copy thank you note or flyer. Why not take a few minutes and write or type a brief thank you note to veterans, then display it in a prominent public area. This is another great way to involve younger children in the remembrances, and can be an opportunity to teach them about the sacrifices of veterans. Many libraries or grocery stores have bulletin boards on which you can post notices.
Give the gift of time. Many veterans could use a helping hand, especially if they are elderly, homebound, or a recovering from an injury. Consider ways to make their daily lives a bit easier with a simple gesture, like delivering a home-cooked meal, doing a chore around the house or yard, taking them out for a meal, or even calling them to visit on the phone. While these gestures would be appreciated any day, veteran-focused holidays make a great reminder to reach out. Younger veterans returning from service are often working on readjusting to civilian life. You may have skills that can help, including experience with resumes or job searches. Don’t be afraid to ask how you can help, and let them know you’re being motivated to thank them for their service.
Hang a flag in your yard. A tried and true show of support to the nation and its servicemen, a flag in the yard is one of the easiest ways to show you stand with our nation’s veterans. Post 9/11, flags were in abundance on homes, businesses, even cars. It’s important to keep that tradition alive; even this small gesture can help a veteran passing by know that their service is appreciated. Take the opportunity to teach younger generations the proper way to treat an American flag and remind them of the many things it has symbolized over the history of our nation.
Help those still fighting even after service. Today there are numerous veterans, both young and old, who are still fighting, though they are no longer on the field of combat. Wounded warriors spend day after day relearning how to walk and do daily tasks, while their families fight to continue normal life near a rehab facility. Older veterans may fight to maintain a positive attitude as they age and face loneliness or tougher economic times. In so many ways, we can be there to support veterans. Whether you knit a warm blanket for a veteran in a rehab facility, deliver meals for shut-ins, spend time volunteering at your local VA hospital, or sponsor a military family at Christmas, simple actions show them they are not alone and are appreciated.
Written by Megan Hammons