Memorial Day honors the fallen, and Veterans Day honors all veterans. The latter is a federal holiday set aside to celebrate those who have honorably served in times of both war and peace. It is a time for a grateful nation to pause, reflect, and give thanks for the men and women who have sacrificed in so many ways.
Comedian Bob Hope entertained U.S. troops during every armed conflict from WWII to the Gulf War. In 1944, he paid tribute to them with these words, “I saw more courage, more good humor in the face of discomfort, more love in an era of hate, and more devotion to duty than could exist under tyranny.”
A Brief History of Veterans Day
It happened in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France on November 11, 1918. The signing of an armistice agreement ended the First World War. It took effect on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” At last, the “Great War” between Germany and the Allies was over.
Every year thereafter, citizens of the victorious nations would commemorate the agreement on Armistice Day. In 1954, the U.S. federal government renamed it Veterans Day. In the early seventies, the holiday briefly moved to October. In 1975, the observance returned to November 11th.
Arlington National Cemetery hosts an annual service on Veterans Day. Its 612 acres are the final resting place of approximately 200,000 veterans.
Ways to Honor Veterans in Your Family and Your Community
There are many ways to honor and care for our nation’s veterans. Although some will be more viable post-pandemic—such as visiting a Veterans Affairs hospital, nursing home, or assisted living facility—there are plenty of options right in your local community.
Attend a parade or Special Event
Many municipalities and civic organizations schedule Veterans Day parades and programs. Gather with family and friends to celebrate our veterans past and present. Veterans Day is a day to embrace the wisdom of humorist Will Rogers, who observed that “we can’t all be heroes; someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.”
Observe Two Minutes of Silence
The Veterans Day Moment of Silence Act provides for two minutes of silence. It recognizes the service and sacrifice of veterans, past and present. The observation occurs simultaneously throughout the United States at 2:11 pm, Eastern Standard Time (EST).
Ask about Their Service
Conversations with veterans are fulfilling for everyone involved. This is true whether the veteran is someone you know or not. Here are some conversation starters recommended at Military.com.
- What did you do in the military?
- What was your favorite moment while in the service?
- How long did you serve?
- Did anyone else in your family serve?
- Why did you choose the branch of service you did?
The goal is to be supportive but not intrusive. Avoid questions about combat experiences unless the veteran volunteers such information. Listening with sincere interest is ideal.
Support Service Organizations
Veterans Day is a particularly good day to wear red poppies distributed by the American Legion Auxiliary. Your donations help veterans, active-duty military personnel, and their families.
Every year, people donate more than $2.5 billion to 40,000 U.S. charities with military-related missions. The VFW Foundation gets a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. So do the AMVETS National Service Foundation, Honor Flight Network, and Operation Gratitude.
Charity Navigator also gives its highest rating to organizations devoted to wounded veterans. The Semper Fi Fund, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, and the DAV Charitable Service Trust are a few examples. Organizations like TAPS and Folds of Honor provide assistance to families of fallen military heroes.
Take your caring efforts a step further by volunteering at one of the veterans service organizations in your area.
Send Correspondence or Care Packages
Uplifting letters and care packages mean a lot when someone is deployed in a distant place. Reach out through various service organizations. A Million Thanks has distributed more than 10 million letters to active, reserve, and veteran military. Operation Gratitude has sent out more than 3 million care packages. Your correspondence offers encouragement and reminds them of home.
Plan a Special Company “Thank You”
Veterans events build camaraderie between the veterans and civilians working at your company. Start the day off right with an internal email thanking your company’s veterans for their service. An event held in honor of veterans, such as a celebratory breakfast, luncheon, or reception, will also help fellow workers see them in a new light.
Enlighten the Next Generation
For children, Veterans Day should be much more than a day off from school. Teach your children and grandchildren the deeper meaning of this special day. Tell your children and grandchildren the stories of family members’ service and sacrifice. Such narratives become windows through which the light of understanding shines. The stories of your family’s veterans bring history to life and they make for better citizens of tomorrow.
Invite Veterans to Speak
The more both children and adult civilians understand the experiences of veterans, the more they’ll empathize and understand. Invite a veteran, or a panel of veterans, to speak about their military experience. Presentations get veterans in front of dozens or hundreds of citizens at a time. Think of family members or friends who might be willing to speak. Or, contact the public affairs officer at your local VA for help.
It is ideal if the recognition freely given on Veterans Day extends throughout the year. Commit to one or more veterans-related activities every month of the year. Every day is the best day to engage with, and to find ways to care for, our nation’s veterans.
Our Commitment to Veterans
Draper and Kramer is committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of business, including taking part in philanthropic initiatives that support and honor the veterans who have served our nation. Visit today to learn more.