May is National Military Appreciation Month: 7 Ways to Celebrate
The month of May contains more national observances in honor of the armed forces than any other month, and it makes perfect sense that it should be designated as “National Military Appreciation Month.” In 1999, Senator John McCain introduced legislation to make the designation official, and both the Senate and House of Representatives adopted resolutions calling for Americans to recognize and honor U.S. Service Members during the month.
Most Americans know and celebrate Memorial Day on the last Monday of May, but the month also includes:
- Loyalty Day (May 1): Established in 1921 to May 1 to reaffirm loyalty to the United States and recognize the heritage of American freedom
- Victory in Europe Day (May 8): Commemorating the end of WWII in Europe on that day in 1945
- Armed Forces Day (May 21): Created in 1949 by President Truman as a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service
- Military Spouse Appreciation Day (the Friday before Mother’s Day): Honors the silent heroes who are essential to the strength of the nation
Memorial Day is the only federal holiday in May and was originally created as “Decoration Day” after the Civil War, set aside as a time to visit the final resting places of fallen soldiers to decorate their graves with flowers. Today the tradition continues, as Memorial Day is designated as the day for all Americans to remember with gratitude the sacrifice given by members of all branches of the armed forces.
So what are some ways to keep America’s active duty, reserve, and veteran servicemen and women foremost in your mind during the National Military Appreciation Month (NAAM)? There are many easy ways to do so, such as:
- Saying thank you. If you see a member of the armed forces in his or her uniform, take a moment to shake hands, and simply say that you appreciate their service. In the same way, many veterans wear a hat or shirt that reflects their prior service. Taking a moment just to offer your gratitude is simple and free.
- Help their loved ones. If you are a friend or acquaintance with the family of a deployed service member, consider little ways in which you could help with every day tasks to give them a hand. Maybe the lawn could use mowing, a hot meal could be delivered at suppertime, or the kids needs to be picked up from school one day. Small things that might give a break to the husband or wife working to do all family roles of their own could go a long way.
- Offer and publicize a military discount. If you are a business owner, a military discount for all current and prior service members could be an easy way to show your thanks. Make it easy on them by posting it somewhere near checkout and ensuring your staff are aware. Even small discounts are appreciated by members of our military and their families, and every penny saved helps a family’s budget stretch further.
- Send a care package. There are numerous organizations that can pair you with a deployed soldier who would love to receive a care package from home. You can send one from yourself or your family, or even organize a collection drive at your work or in your community. If you need ideas for what to include, these organizations often offer a “wish list” that makes it easy to fulfill. You can also create a theme for your packages to make them extra fun. This could be a great activity to do with your kids to help them remember members of our armed forces who are currently deployed while our daily lives go on as usual.
- Decorate or clean up at your local cemetery. While there are some organizations that attempt to maintain the graves of the fallen servicemen, perhaps in your city or town, it has been a while. Simple bouquets of flowers (often on sale at super stores during May for this very reason) or small American flags could be a nice gesture you could distribute to the graves of veterans on your lunch break or one afternoon If more work is needed, perhaps you could take your family or a group of friends to volunteer to do heavier cleaning for the graves. Showing respect to these men and women, even after they have passed, is an honorable way to celebrate NMAM.
- Donate to or volunteer at your local VA hospital. Many of our wounded warriors are recovering and fighting every day to return to normal life after injuries sustained in the theater of war. VA hospitals also serve and care for our older veterans who served honorably years ago. By volunteering at the hospital (there are many things that untrained civilians can do around the facility to help) or even donating things like blankets, new warm socks, or other similar comfort and care items can make a person’s stay just a bit more comfortable. There are often also nearby VA-associated group homes where the patient’s families are staying during treatment. You can also volunteer there, helping with meals or even maintenance of the grounds.
- Fly a flag at your home of place of business. This is perhaps the simplest way to show your respect and appreciation for the work that our active member and reservists do, and what our veterans have done. The American flag is an important symbol in their daily lives, and by showing it the proper respect and honor, you are thanking them as well. Why not wear a lapel pin on your clothes for the entire month? Putting it on every morning and seeing it in the mirror throughout the day will be a reminder to think about with gratitude all our armed forces members have done and continue to do for those needing help across the globe.
Thank you to all active, reserve, and veteran members of our armed forces. We hope you feel the gratitude and appreciation of our nation during NMAM.
Written by Megan Hammons