If you count all of its various iterations, Veterans Day has been a portion of the American pantheon of holidays for 101 years.
How is it, then, that so few of us, veterans included, know how to mark the holiday?
We’ll talk about what veterans can do in a second. For civilians, this is a serious issue.
First and foremost, we need to acknowledge a reality — a massive segment of civilians on Veterans Day, not unlike Memorial Day, really don’t know what to do during these holidays. Many have a portion or the whole of a day off of work. Many don’t really plan to do anything on that day. While breaks are nice, that’s not really what Veterans Day is about.
So, what do we do?
First, we can thank a veteran. Second, we can thank the legion of waitstaff and customer service personnel who make all the discounts and free meals available to veterans on their day possible. Those are pretty easy, and even if you thank 10 veterans, the combined efforts have taken us about 15 minutes.
Veterans Day wouldn’t be a holiday is the appreciation of our men and women in uniform was meant to take 15 minutes.
I recently spoke with the Dean of the School of Firearms Technology at SDI, Wes Lemay, who served in the Army for some time, and he answered that very question.
His answer was simple: be better today.
To be better today, Wes outlined a few action points:
- If there’s a veteran-recognizing event today, be a part of it.
- Donate. As you are able, donate resources to veterans in need. There are a number of charities that would love your help. A few of my personal favorites are the Wounded Warrior Project, Freedom Service Dogs of America, the Gary Sinise Foundation, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, and the Semper Fi Fund. SDI has donated to the Fisher House Foundation.
- Fly the American flag, and do it respectfully and correctly. You can research proper flag display procedure here.
- Ask a veteran about their service, and don’t press into topics that appear sensitive.
- Write a letter to a service member.
- If you’ve got a VA hospital near you and there are people that can and will accept visitors, go and visit. Make someone’s day.
- Take advantage of the opportunities veterans sacrificed for.
Americans have fought and died for your freedom. They’ve sacrificed time. They’ve sacrificed sweat. They’ve sacrificed whole portions of their lives in the pursuit of your life and liberty.
If you can complete that list, you’ve lived Veterans Day to the fullest.
Now, for our veterans on Veterans Day: relax. this day is for you.
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