Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Veterans Day

Posted in Uncategorized on November 9, 2017

November 11 is Veterans Day in the United States, and while many people have a day off, some may be struggling to find practical ways to celebrate the meaning behind the holiday.Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Veterans Day

Celebrate Veterans Day

Below are seven simple yet meaningful ways to honor U.S. veterans and their sacrifices and service, and keep the true meaning of Veterans Day in mind this year:

1. Adopt a Military Family for the Holidays

Another very practical way to thank the veteran community and U.S. servicemembers as a whole is to help those who may be in need, especially during the holiday season. Some military families – like those with a deployed parent, veteran families on very limited incomes, or families of veterans seriously injured post 9/11 – can participate in the Adopt a Family program sponsored by Soldiers’ Angels that allows civilians and companies to sponsor a family for the holiday season.

Each military family is thoroughly vetted and, once approved, entered into a database where volunteers can select up to three families to sponsor. For each family, the sponsor provides a gift for each dependent child under the age of 18, as well as a gift card for groceries to help with a holiday meal. The sponsor is responsible for shipping the gifts and card to the family by December 11 to ensure it reaches them by the Christmas holiday. Helping these families have a happier holiday is a simple way to show your appreciation for their service.

2. Donate to a Reputable Veterans’ Charity or Service Organization

Veterans Day is the perfect opportunity to donate to a charity or service organization actively helping veterans on a daily basis. But with more than 40,000 charities in the U.S. that support members of the U.S. Armed Forces, it can be overwhelming to know which is the best place to direct your funds. You can review the top tips for ensuring you are picking a reputable charity, and also cross reference the organization on a site like CharityNavigator.org that reviews and rates a wide range of charities.

You may also wish to donate to one of the many veteran service organizations (VSOs) in your own community, such as:

  • Disabled American Veterans
  • The American Legion
  • The VFW and many more

Finding an organization that resonates with you can be a fulfilling way to say thank you to veterans.

3. Participate in the National Two-Minutes of Silence

In 2016, the Veterans Day Moment of Silence Act became public law, designed to bring Americans together and provide an opportunity to reflect on veterans who have touched their lives. On November 11, all Americans are invited to participate in the observance of a two-minute national moment of silence based on their local time zone. Taking the time to pause quietly and join your thoughts with thousands of other Americans is a great way to ensure you remember the purpose of Veterans Day.

The moments of silence begin at: 3:11 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time; 2:11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time; 1:11 p.m. Central Standard Time; 12:11 Mountain Standard Time; 11:11 Pacific Standard Time; 10:11 a.m. Alaska Standard Time; 9:11 a.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time.

4. Participate in the VA’s #BeThere campaign

You may already be aware of the suicide crisis faced by U.S. veterans, with an estimated 20 veterans a day taking their own lives. Sadly, research has shown that almost 70% of those who commit suicide are suffering in silence, either disconnected to or unaware of the numerous support services offered through the VA.

In response, the VA is redoubling its efforts to not only connect with at-risk veterans but to encourage other veterans and civilians to be aware of warning signs and take simple yet impactful actions to show their support and approachability in a time of crisis.

The newly launched campaign #BeThere includes a video narrated by Tom Hanks, praising the virtues of U.S. service members and encouraging all Americans to live by the code, “No Veteran Left Behind.” Simple acts like bringing by a meal or sending an email or text can be exactly what a struggling veteran needs to get him or her through a difficult moment. Additional resources included in the #BeThere website are crisis line contact information and social media tools to help spread awareness.

For veterans, the site includes a comprehensive list of support resources, including free, 24-hour crisis phone lines, online chats, one-on-one coaching, and support based on branch of service. The Veterans Crisis Line number is 1-800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.

5. Visit a Veteran Memorial or Cemetery

Although decorating military headstones is typically an activity more connected to Memorial Day where we remember service members who have passed away, Veterans Day is still a good opportunity to visit your nearest veterans' cemetery or memorial and leave a small token or even just take a few moments to silently pay your respects. Many veterans’ cemeteries will be hosting local ceremonies to commemorate Veterans Day, and simply attending can be a meaningful way to show your gratitude to the other veterans who will be attending.

If you aren’t close to a local veteran cemetery, you can most likely find military markers at a nearby church cemetery or city cemetery, as all veterans are provided a government marker at the time of death. You may notice some of the oldest headstones are in need of cleaning or small repair, and your simple actions can help honor the memory of these veterans. Additionally, you may reach out to a local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post or other veteran service organization to see if they have plans to place flags out on Nov. 11, and volunteer your own time to help.

6. Visit Your Local Nursing Home or VA Hospital

As the population of U.S. veterans age, you’re likely to find more and more in your local nursing homes, both those run by the VA and also public nursing homes. Many facilities sponsor small parties or services to honor residents and their respective branches of service. Contact your local nursing home to see how you can participate, or, if nothing is planned, simply offer to provide your own small gesture like a basket of goodies or comfort items (blankets, hygiene, socks) for veterans living in the residence.

If you live near a VA hospital, you can thank the veteran population with your volunteer time. Even the smallest jobs, like helping distribute coffee, not only can make life a little easier for veterans receiving treatment and their family members, but can give you a chance to give back to those who have sacrificed so much. You can also check with the hospital on its most common “wish list” needs and make small care packages to hand out. Organizations like Soldiers’ Angels have a very active VA hospital volunteer program and can help connect you to opportunities as well.

Additionally, many VA hospitals are located near Fisher Homes, where families of veterans can stay for free while their loved one is undergoing treatment at the hospital. These facilities often can use help from volunteers to provide meals, clean the homes, or do other small tasks.

7. Wear a Poppy or other Pro-Veteran Item

If you yourself are a veteran, you most likely have hats, pins or shirts that reflect your time in the service. Veterans Day is the perfect time to proudly wear these items, and allow your family and friends to be more aware of the service many of their acquaintances have offered the country in the past. It may feel strange to let people thank you for your service, but allowing civilians to do so gives them a chance to offer gratitude that they have no other way of giving.

If you are not a veteran, a simple red poppy or American flag pin on your lapel is a small yet meaningful gesture to remind yourself and others that Veterans Day is more than just a holiday off from work. The story and symbolism of the red poppy reaches back to WWII when the famous poem, “In Flanders Field” noted how the red flowers were the first to bloom in the war-torn fields of France and Belgium. Today the symbolism remains popular in Europe and in many instances in the U.S. as well, and wearing a poppy throughout your day can help others remember the meaning behind Veterans Day.

Written by Megan Hammons

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