“Thank you for your service.” The first time someone told me this it felt awkward. I’m not sure why but it still feels awkward when I hear it. Having served in the Air Force I have a special affinity for the men and women in blue. All vets represent our nation proudly both here and abroad in some of the most difficult places and conditions. Please make a commitment to give back to those who have sacrificed and given us so much.
Veteran’s Day – A History
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect. On November 11, 1919, Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time. In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the day should be “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory”. There were plans for parades, public meetings and a brief suspension of business activities at 11am.
An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) was approved on May 13, 1938, which made November 11 in each year a legal holiday known as Armistice Day. This day was originally intended to honor veterans of World War I. A few years later, World War II required the largest mobilization of service men in the history of the United States and the American forces fought in Korea.
In 1954, the veterans service organizations urged Congress to change the word “Armistice” to “Veterans”. Congress approved this change and on June 1, 1954, November 11 became a day to honor all American veterans, where ever and whenever they had served.
Celebrating Veterans Day Around the World
Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near November 11th. Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November). In Europe, Britain and the Commonwealth countries it’s common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every November 11.
In the United States, an official wreath-laying ceremony is held each Veterans Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, while parades and other celebrations are held in states around the country.
How Should We Give Back?
As we regrettably do with many areas of life, it’s more easy to take our military veterans’ service for granted rather than step up and take action – or even offer simple thanks to a soldier in uniform.
Beyond our natural tendency to take things for granted, I believe it must be difficult for average citizens and non-military families to understand how to properly reach out to troops abroad and honor those veterans who have returned home. Who would have thought giving back to veterans and showing gratitude could become such a difficult problem?
11 Ways to Give Back to Our Troops and Vets
You’ll find a variety of charities and organizations that support our troops abroad and returning veterans. It can be somewhat overwhelming to select between them. Here’s a listing of a few organizations – for giving back to our military personnel each cause is somewhat distinct while offering creative methods.
For Soldiers Currently Serving Abroad
1. Send a Message of Thanks
The quickest and simplest way to show your support for military personnel now serving abroad is to give a simple message of thanks. Visit America Supports You or Let’s Say Thanks and write a message of gratitude and support to all those protecting our freedoms and protecting our liberties. You may be surprised how much a short, simple “Thank you” from a fellow American citizen back home makes a difference in the life of a soldier. It’s likely you will never cross paths with all the soldier which truly makes reaching out to him or her all the more unique and wonderful in life.
2. The USO
The USO is the boss organization of military support and veterans’ services. USO.org is abundant with gift tips, ideas for fundraisers and details lots of great on-going plans that provide for those in military service and military veterans who’ve returned home.
3. Soldiers’ Angels
Soldiers’ Angels is a fantastic nonprofit organization. Through Soldiers’ Angels which you can “adopt” a soldier who’s serving abroad and send them presents, care packages, calling cards and specialized gear like sand scarves. You can send a text message with the word “Soldiers” (no quotes) to phone number “20222” to contribute $5 to Soldiers’ Angels in support of care-packages for troops overseas!
4. Green Beans Coffee and the “Cup O Joe For A Joe” Program
Green Beans Coffee is a very trendy java business that started by starting coffee shops on American overseas military bases. Now, they’ve shops and stores around the world and mainly serve troops fresh, high quality coffees to give them an additional jolt of energy and a taste of home during their long days and nights.
Their “Cup O’ Joe for a Joe” program lets patriots back home purchase cups of coffee for troops serving abroad, that they redeem with free coupons on their military bases overseas! Better yet, your gift can include an e-mailed message of support and thanks. The troops who get your gift of java will frequently write back!
5. Operation American Soldier
Having experienced this first hand, it’s a real bummer to show up for mail call and not get anything. Operation American Soldier’s mission is to make sure “No soldier walks away from mail call empty handed.” Unfortunately, not every soldier stationed overseas receives letters and care-packages from home. As a result of Operation American Soldier, it’s possible to send a care-package and letter to soldier who’d be thankful to receive one.
For Veterans Returning Home
6. Simply Reach Out. Say thank you.
When you cross paths with a soldier in your day-to-day life, leave your comfort zone to take a moment to introduce yourself and say hello or thank you for being in the military — especially on Veteran’s Day. Simply say, “Hi” and say you value their service. Simply say thanks. I recently had a great conversation with a post World War II veteran – he was wearing a baseball cap with military affiliation. He was delighted to share his story of life in post war England.
7. The Fisher House
The Fisher House is a “home away from home” for the families of soldiers who are undergoing treatment at medical centers throughout the United States. There are 65 Fisher Houses located on 24 military installations and 24 VA medical centers. Many more houses are under construction or in design. The Fisher House is also a grassroots fundraising nonprofit organization that has raised millions of dollars for special programs that provide things like travel expenses for wounded troops, scholarships for the children of military personnel and much more.
8. Homes For Our Troops
Homes For Our Troops builds mortgage-free, specialty adapted homes nationwide for severely injured Veterans Post-9/11 to enable them to rebuild their lives.
9. Wounded Warrior Project
Did you know nearly 60% of our warriors feel there’s little meaning in the things they do in their daily life? The Wounded Warrior Project is an impressive organization with big reach, striving to help wounded and disabled military veterans heal both mentally and physically while readjusting to life back home.
The Wounded Warrior Project uses donations for peer counseling and special retreats for wounded veterans, even government policy advocacy to support military veterans. In partnership with companies like UnderArmour, you can donate performance clothing and athletic-wear to wounded troops.
10. Hire a Veteran
Many veterans of the military have a hard time adjusting to civilian life. One of the many challenges is finding employment again, especially in this dreadful economy. To help military veterans readjust and get back into the civilian workforce, the United States Department of Labor’s VETS Program and other nonprofit organizations and job-seeking websites help vouch for and place qualified veterans in businesses.
For Honoring the Fallen
11. Fallen Heroes Project
The Fallen Heroes Project provides beautiful hand-drawn portraits of a Fallen Hero to each military family, completely free of charge. Internationally-recognized artist Michael G. Reaga is leading the program, providing thousands of hand-crafted portraits of military men and women who have paid the ultimate price to their families — who have also paid a monumental price.
What are some of the ways you support the troops overseas, provide for veterans back home, and honor those who have sacrificed their lives for the sake of freedom? Remember… our military serves us proudly, and when they return home, it’s time for us to serve them.