On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the War to End All Wars finally drew to a close when the combatant nations signed an armistice to end the First World War. That event was commemorated for the first time on November 11, 1919. Over the years since, November 11 has come to be recognized in the United States of America as Veteran’s Day – a day to honor all who have served in the United States military, especially living veterans.
However you may feel about the military conflicts in which the United States (or your own country) may have engaged, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen and Marines, as well as members of the coast guard, all deserve your gratitude and appreciation. They have risked all in service to their country. That means that they have risked all in service to you, to me and to all of our children.
If you are a veteran of military service, I offer you my thanks. Whatever you have given in service is much more than I can ever offer you in return, but please know that I appreciate your sacrifice. If you have not served, please consider the many ways that you can offer your appreciation to those who have. You do not need to spend a lot of money to show your thanks, but you can give a lot back by doing so.
Visit a Veteran in a Nursing Home: There are many thousands of World War II and Korean War veterans living in nursing homes. Many do not have family who can easily visit them. If you live near a nursing home, please consider asking the nursing home’s administrators whether there might be a veteran who you can “adopt” and visit from time to time. I am sure that the veteran you visit will appreciate your company and you may find that the experience is one of the more rewarding uses of your time that you have ever discovered.
Volunteer to Help a Veteran’s Organization: There are many organizations that serve the cause of veterans. Local churches often hold fund raisers to assist injured veterans who are returning to civilian life. If your church or civic group has not held such fund raisers, you can explore organizing them. National organizations such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) also are in great need of volunteers. The USO is also a wonderful organization that supports the military and for which volunteers are needed. Even if you cannot donate money to such organizations, you can try to find ways to donate your time and your talents.
Read About the Conflicts in Which Our Soldiers have been Engaged: If you are not a combat soldier, you really cannot understand what a combat soldier has experienced. In many ways, you should be grateful to combat soldiers for that reason, because they have experienced the horror of combat so that you do not have to do so. You can try to get a better understanding of what combat soldiers have experienced by learning about the combat theaters in which they operated. Read about the war in Afghanistan. Read about the war in Iraq. Read about Bosnia, Viet Nam and Korea. If you do, you will have a greater foundation for understanding veterans with whom you may speak.
Visit a Cemetery: At this time of year, small flags will be planted near the graves of many veterans throughout the United States. Visit a cemetery and pay tribute to the fallen. Be mindful that if you pass other people in the cemetery, you may be walking past the parents, siblings, spouses or children of fallen soldiers. They deserve your respect and gratitude, too.
Enjoy the Freedom that They Won for You: In the United States, Europe and throughout the world, our soldiers have paid a dear price in the past eighty years to preserve the freedoms that we enjoy, wherever we may live. Greet each day with an appreciation for their sacrifice and remember that the wars that they fought were to benefit all of us – not just some of us. Treat everyone you meet with the respect with which you would like to be treated, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Do you have any veterans in your life who you would like to thank? Do you volunteer your time to support veterans, or even turn out to support the Veteran’s Day parade in your town? How do you remember the fallen and honor the living?