Less than 1% of Americans serve their country in the armed forces, and 11 November is our annual opportunity to celebrate and thank those who came before us.
Photo Credit: NY Post
What is Veterans Day?
Formerly known as Armistice Day, President Woodrow Wilson began the annual day to commemorate both the end of World War I and the nation’s veterans’ sacrifice in that and all other wars in service of America.
After World War II, veterans and organizations petitioned the White House to change Armistice Day to a day more directly celebrating all veterans.
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History influenced by Raymond Weeks
The charge was led by Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran from Alabama. Weeks served in the Navy, differing from most draftees as he was in his mid-30s, and continued his service in Alabama’s House of Representatives and civic organizations like the March of Dimes.
Not waiting for anyone, Weeks started Veterans Day celebrations in his home state in 1947 to set an annual example for others to follow.
Photo Credit: Lewisville Rotary
When was Veteran’s Day first celebrated?
Eventually, in 1954, Congress renamed Armistice Day to Veterans Day in honor of all veterans discharged under other-than-dishonorable conditions.
On the day he signed it, then-president Eisenhower marked the occasion with a speech:
“On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”
Commitment to peace
Promoting peace is the most significant way to remember veterans who sacrifice so much for our country in peacetime and war.
But there are many other ways to celebrate this national holiday:
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How to honor Veteran’s you know
If you know a veteran who served, thank them in person or online on Veterans Day.
This means far more than you might think, especially as the past two decades of conflict fade from memory, although the physical and mental wounds remain. Better yet, if you live near a veteran, cook them a meal or give them a small gift to remember their service.
Photo Credit: Epoch Times
Put together care packages
Just because active conflict is mostly over for most of our troops doesn’t mean many aren’t deployed in rough conditions.
We’ve got troops overseas throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, and even the Middle East. Just because they’re not necessarily in a combat zone doesn’t mean being away from home is more manageable.
Working together with your community to send care packages can go a long way to helping those serving feel remembered during difficult days. You can contact your closest base for options or network with organizations like Operation Gratitude or the USO.
Photo Credit: NY Times
Visit a veteran
Check if your area has a prominent Veterans Administration (VA) hospital and visit with elderly and sick veterans on Veterans Day if they allow it.
Be sure to call ahead, as some still have COVID-19 restrictions in place, but all of us feel forgotten and out of sorts when hospitalized. Imagine how hard it must be for veterans on a day commemorating them.
Photo Credit: Care.com
Involve the kids
If you have school-age children, speak with their teacher and work to develop a curriculum or event for Veterans Day.
Many kids today don’t realize veterans’ sacrifices, so this is an excellent chance to educate them. You can even have a local veteran come and share his or her experiences.
Patronize a veteran-owned business
Doing this is a great way to thank veterans while encouraging many of the developing systems designed to assist veterans post-service in starting businesses. Google has made it easy to sort by veteran-owned establishments, but you can also call your local Better Business Bureau office or Chamber of Commerce to find one.
Photo Credit: Starbucks Stories
What are the benefits of Veteran’s Day?
If you’re a veteran, you also know one of the other Veterans Day perks – discounts and free food! These are a few of the most popular:
- Starbucks offers a free tall hot or iced coffee to veterans and spouses
- Cracker Barrel will give you a free slice of double chocolate fudge cake
- Target offers a 10% discount through 12 November
- Kohl’s will give veterans a whopping 30% off from 11-13 November
Photo Credit: ABC News
Gratitude to our veterans every day
Whether you’re a veteran or a civilian supporter, Veterans Day is a special day to honor and acknowledge those who worked hard to serve their country.
Sacrifice and selfless service are a matter of course for our veterans, so showing them a little appreciation on Veterans Day can mean much to a veteran.
Don’t forget our veterans after this day passes.
As George Washington said: “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
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