Veterans Day is almost upon us!
November 11th is the one day set aside each year to honor those who have served and continue to serve our nation. Not to be confused with Memorial Day, the day we pay tribute to fallen service members, Veterans Day offers a great opportunity to teach civilians about the sacrifice service members and their families make year-round. How do you plan to celebrate this year?
In addition to attending your local Veterans Day parade – like the 2018 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade on Monday, Nov. 12 – here are some ideas for activities to try in your community:
- Organize a care-package packing party. If you don’t know someone currently stationed overseas, contact a nearby base or an organization like Blue Star Moms to identify troops in need. What do troops really want in their care packages? Things to occupy them during downtime (video games, board games, cards, movies, music, books, model kits), personal items (body wash, lip balm, mentholated topical ointment, pain-relieving topic cream, lens-cleaning cloths, small bottles of glass cleaner, baby wipes, sunscreen), snacks (hot sauce, water flavoring packets, beef jerky, sunflower seeds, a bottle of barbecue sauce from a local restaurant – must be non-perishable), and sentimental things (such as a handwritten letter or videos of family members/events on a USB drive).
- Visit a veterans’ hospital. If you don’t have a local VA office, contact an assisted living or nursing home facility nearby. Chatting with elderly or injured veterans is a great way to brighten their day, plus you’re likely to hear some highly fascinating stories about their time in the service. Take flowers or an activity they could do in bed.
- Get creative. For young children, a fun project is a great way to start teaching about the holiday and its importance.
- Encourage your child’s teacher to develop a Veterans Day lesson plan. A timeline or short writing project is a great way for students to learn about the holiday’s history. Consider organizing a creative writing contest with the theme of Veterans Day. Talk with the school and understand their requirements. You may find willing volunteer judges among student organizations, local veteran organizations, active duty, reservists, teachers, or professors at a local university.
- Invite a veteran — a parent, grandparent or faculty member, perhaps — to speak to students about what it’s like to be in the military. Don’t know any veterans to invite? Contact the Phoenix VA; the Public Affairs Officer will likely be able to identify a good guest speaker. There are many veterans who work at VA facilities and would be happy to be to speak to students.
- Wear a red poppy to show support for veteran and active duty service members. The American Legion Auxiliary distributes red crepe-paper poppies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day nationwide. The poppies are all handmade by veterans as part of their therapeutic rehabilitation, and donations received in exchange for the flowers go directly to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans in our communities. Contact your local American Legion office to find out where you can get one in your community.
- Take time out of the day to acknowledge veterans in your workplace. Consider an office-wide coffee break featuring patriotic-themed snacks. During the event, make sure to recognize each veteran employee. (Plan ahead to make sure you don’t miss anyone.)
Honor veterans year-round
- Celebrate with service. Show service members your gratitude throughout the year with a home-cooked meal, thank you note or day of volunteering.
- Support veteran-owned businesses. It’s not always easy to identify which businesses are founded or operated by veterans. Contact your local chamber of commerce to see if they have any resources.
- Express thanks. Whenever you see someone in uniform, extend a simple word of gratitude or small act of kindness to show how much their service means to you.
- Send a card. Start compiling a list of names and addresses of the Veterans you know and send them a thank-you card this year. Continue building out your list and make a tradition of sending these out each year. It only takes 10 minutes to send a welcome gift to a veteran or deployed service member.