Wednesday is Veterans Day, a day when Americans celebrate the brave men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces. Yet, for many of us, the day passes without the direct opportunity to honor our veterans, or the opportunity involves opening our wallets wide at a moment when it’s difficult to do so.
Here are seven things you can do today to honor a veteran. Opening your heart and giving a bit of your time is all that is required.
Say “thank you.” It’s a simple gesture, but a deeply meaningful one. If you see a veteran in uniform out in public, simply step up and thank that person for his or her service. Shake that person’s hand, look them in the eye and give a sincere “thank you.”
Many veterans wear their uniforms in public on Veterans Day, making it easy to identify veterans out and about. It doesn’t take much out of your daily rush to stop and spend just a few seconds thanking them for their courage and sacrifice.
Visit a retirement home. Many veterans in retirement homes would be incredibly happy if people took a moment to stop in and spend some time with them as thanks for their service. Stop in at a retirement home near you, ask if there are any veterans around and personally thank them. Take the time to ask them about their service and genuinely listen to their stories.
This idea is particularly powerful because many people in retirement homes struggle with loneliness. A 15 minute visit not only shows veterans that you appreciate their service, but also helps them enjoy a few moments of genuine human warmth and companionship.
Send a letter. This isn’t quite free – you’ll have to spend enough for a stamp (you probably have a few in your desk drawers) and use up some paper and an envelope from around the house. However, it’s a powerful – and permanent – way to show a veteran that you honor his service.
It’s simple. Sign up at A Million Thanks and agree to send a letter to a veteran. Spend some time writing that letter – the website will help you with suggestions if you’re unsure what to write – and drop it in the mail. A few days from now, a veteran will receive that letter and know that someone out there remembers his or her service. Not only that, the vet can hold onto that letter as a reminder.
Do some chores. If you have a veteran in your neighborhood, stop in and ask if that person needs any help with chores. Perhaps you can rake leaves or help with a simple household task or two. Maybe that veteran needs a ride somewhere or could simply use an ear to listen while she talks.
Stop by, ring the doorbell, say hello, thank them and then simply ask if they need any help with anything today. It can be as simple or as challenging as you want to make it, but whatever you do, it will make a difference in the life of a veteran.
Invite a veteran to Thanksgiving dinner. If you know a veteran in your community that might not have a family to visit during Thanksgiving dinner, invite that veteran to your family’s dinner. Open your doors and make him or her feel completely welcome in your home. A meal and some great conversation can make anyone feel honored.
This isn’t just a great way to honor veterans. It’s a great way to help out anyone in the community who might find themselves alone this Thanksgiving. It doesn’t really cost you anything, either – sure, you might have less leftovers than you would otherwise have, but that just means less food will likely be wasted.
Learn more. For many veterans, the most powerful thanks you can give is to simply understand why they served and what this nation is really all about. Spend some time learning about the details of American history, our proudest achievements and the great challenges facing us today.
Remember also that our veterans did not serve to protect just part of America, but all of America, with all the freedoms that entails. Spend some time learning more about the parts of America you don’t know and about American beliefs that you don’t fully understand. In other words, become the best possible citizen you can be.
Teach. Hand in hand with learning more is the opportunity to teach your children about the proud history of our nation and the sacrifices veterans have made. Spend some time today talking to your children or grandchildren or nieces or nephews about what veterans have done to protect and defend our country.
If you know any veterans, take your children to meet those veterans. Say thank you on behalf of you and your children, and give your children the opportunity to say thank you as well.
Remember, many of the most meaningful things you can do for a veteran won’t cost you a cent, but they will be priceless to the veterans who have served our nation.