The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month marked the signing of the armistice to end the Great War, or what would later be known as WW1, in 1918. One year later, President Wilson declared the day Armistice Day, and soldiers of the war were celebrated-those who had survived marched in hometown parades and were honored with speeches by local and national politicians. In 1938, Armistice Day was voted a national holiday, and then in 1971 became Veterans Day, honoring veterans of all wars, under President Nixon.
After the Vietnam War, Veterans Day celebrations, parades, and speeches dwindled in popularity and the day has become, for many, another day off. Before I married into the Air Force the day was largely just another day off for me as well. Four years ago, it became the day my husband proposed, and then, as I became a part of the military family, the day evolved into something more personal and meaningful. As my family grew to include our military friends made during each PCS, “veterans” suddenly had a new meaning. It was personal. It became a day to remember our friends who’ve served and lost their lives, to reflect on the great responsibility it is to serve, to look at my husband with pride for his commitment to our nation, and a day to thank my father in law and brother, uncle and other former military service members for their service. With a new understanding of the military family, I found myself wondering how I might now celebrate this holiday with my own family. The list that follows provides a few ways that military families can honor each other and our veterans on this important holiday.
10) Take a moment, then hug a vet
Pause for a moment at 11 am on Veterans day to consider those who have served and silently thank them for having provided us with the greatest gift of all-freedom. And, for those of us fortunate enough to have a veteran at home, hug them tightly and thank them for their daily sacrifice and service to our country.
Support the businesses that support our military. Many restaurants and stores offer promotions on Veterans Day to military members and their families. Take your vet to lunch or, if you’re not military, simply show your support for our troops by patronizing one of the many participating vendors.
Reach out to our veteran community. Remember those who have shared in our struggles, our joys, and our sorrows. Call up a fellow Service member or spouse with whom you’ve previously served and reconnect. In supporting each other we gain strength as a military community and honor the accomplishments our veterans have made either side by side or over generations.
7) Honor those we’ve lost
We’ve all been touched by the loss of a friend or loved one in the military family. Take the time to honor especially these veterans of war who’ve fought for our country and who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice. Visit their family, or donate to organizations like TAPS or Folds of Honor that support families of fallen soldiers.
Visit your local VA or military hospital and say hello. Bring your kids and have them draw pictures or, if they’re old enough, ask questions about the service of those you’re able to spend some time with. By sharing just a little of our time and a smile, we can show our appreciation and reverence for fellow vets. For more information on your local VA, click here.
Explain to your children or family members that Veterans Day celebrates all members of the military, those currently serving and those who have served previously, those who have served in times of peace as well as war. This differs from Memorial Day, which is a day to commemorate specifically those who died while serving, especially those who died in combat.
Contact your closest Fisher House, the non-profit “home away from home” that provides free lodging to families of military members during hospitalization at major military medical facilities. Get the kids involved and ask if your nearest Fisher House could use any donated goods-have your kids select a toy or other comfort items to donate, see if they could use some homemade goodies to decorate tabletops, or sweeten up someone’s day with some chocolate chip cookies. Show your children that they’re never too little to help others.
Visit the closest national cemetery and ask to place flags at the headstones, or pick a specific soldier to honor. Learn about his or her life of service and pay special tribute to them this year. Continue this tradition in the years to come. For a list of national cemeteries, click here.
Whether its time or financial support, donate to organizations that support our veterans. The opportunities are limitless and the need is constant. One simple yet effective example (especially if you you’re looking to get little hands involved) is to create a care package with your kids for a soldier overseas-imagine the gratitude you’d feel if your spouse received an anonymous care package from a thankful American child. Talk to your children about why we honor all of our troops, not just the ones who are “mommy” or “daddy”. Contact the USO, Blue Star Families or Operation Gratitude to find other ways to help.
1) Remember all year
We are fortunate to have a day that provides a national platform through which to show our appreciation for our veterans. But a simple “thank you” at any time during the year is a great way to show appreciation for all our military members past and present for the service they provide every day.
Veterans day has developed a new meaning for me because the veterans are now my family – my husband, brother, father in law, and uncle; they are our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues. They are the people we’ve laughed with, depended on, cried alongside. We’ve shared our weddings, the birth of our children, the death of our friends, and our family, which makes Veterans Day that much more important-it’s the opportunity to honor each other and the reality that we, as military members and spouses, live each and every day. It is with great pride and honor that I wish all of our veterans a very happy and safe Veterans Day this year. You are heroes every day, and I am forever grateful.