For some of us, Veterans Day means a day off from work or school. For most of us, it also means a bombardment of sales, specials, and limited time only deals. I certainly don’t begrudge retailers offering perks to veterans or service people, but I do think that the rest of us can do much better than saving 30% off a shirt at Target when it comes to celebrating Veterans Day.
Here’s a short list of things that I’m doing today to celebrate Veterans Day. (Sorry, Target, you’re not on the list.) I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!
See How Your Community Celebrates
Community events are usually always fun and frugal. While Veterans Day celebrations are more somber than they are celebratory, and rightfully so, community events foster feelings of belonging and rally people together to support one another. A quick Google search of Veterans Day plus your community name will let you know what’s going on in your area today.
If your community hosts events the weekend prior, put a notification in your calendar for next year. Seriously. Stop reading, switch tabs, and do it now.
Connect with Friends and Family
Show up for people in your life. It’s hard to do, and yet I’m not sure anything we do actually matters more. If you find yourself feeling too busy, that’s all the more reason to pick up the phone, send a text, or fire off an email.
RELATED POST: Who Are You Showing Up For?
What is really remarkable is that the people who have served our country are all around us. If no one in your immediate circle of friends or family is a veteran, there is still a good chance that you cross paths with someone deserving of our gratitude. They’re people we went to high school with, and people who live in our neighborhoods.
Something I really love about my work is that my building and my district make it a point to recognize all of the staff members who are veterans. That way, I can thank my coworkers. Even more importantly, students learn how far a sincere “thank you” goes and can practice that for a lifetime. Imagine if all of our schools and workplaces took the time to do something like this.
Donate to a Charity
One of my favorite things about Charity Navigator–besides the fact that it totally negates people’s skepticism of charities–is the fact that you can search by cause. That means that in a just a few clicks, anyone can find a highly-rated charity that supports military members.
We give to two different nationals charities, as well as a local veterans program that supports homeless vets, regularly. My plan is to take the money I am tempted to fritter away at Target (I wasn’t kidding about that 30% off on women’s clothing!) and donate it instead.
Show Your Support However You Can
While I am a firm believer in the power of charitable giving, I also know that not everyone is willing or able to donate money. That’s OK. There are plenty of other ways to show support to veterans and active duty military personnel.
- Donate Halloween candy to send to troops. (Dentists in our area support this Halloween candy buy back program!)
- Collect other in-demand items for troops and send care packages via Support Our Troops.
- Write cards and make posters. Operation Gratitude letters are for active duty, veterans, first responders, and more!
- Contact local and state representatives to let them know you want more support for veterans who return home.
- Research other veterans support initiatives in your own community that exist and brainstorm ways to support them.
If opportunities to support veterans present themselves, lean into it. Perhaps you’ll cross paths with a poppy. Scoop one up! I wrestled with this a bit on Poppy Day last year, but I ultimately decided that wearing a poppy wasn’t going to undo any of my decluttering progress.
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It would be easy to grumble about not having the day off, but I’m actually thrilled to go into work today because our school puts together a really beautiful and powerful assembly. The band and orchestra play, the choir sings. Students recite poems and read essays. Veterans in our community are recognized. I could show up with a bad attitude about wanting the day off (we used to stay home!). Instead, I’m focusing on what an amazing opportunity this is for my students and for me.
As someone who isn’t the in the military and doesn’t have any direct connections, I always marvel at how close and how far away this holiday feels. My family tree on both side is lined with veterans. In fact, my great grandmother had all of her sons serving in World War II at the same time. A classmate of mine since elementary school was killed in combat right after high school. But my parents did not serve, and only one of my friends did (he’s home now!).
I can’t fathom the ongoing sacrifice that our military and their family make, but I can remind myself to be grateful. Taking time to reflect and to articulate that gratitude matters. Today serves as a reminder for me to do both.
Final Thoughts on Celebrating Veterans Day
If you’re going to shop, shop. But know that there’s more to be done today to celebrate our veterans than score free shipping or a percentage-off promo code. We can’t ever match their sacrifice, but we can work to support them and show our thanks.
So Tell Me…How do you or your community celebrate Veterans Day?
Thanks for this post, Penny.
Without an active draft, fewer and fewer Americans have military experience. It’s important to take a day to discuss with our children the fact that (historically) many have served and why that’s important.
Most veterans served to defend our country and its way of life, and they would have done that regardless of any accolades – most don’t want to be called “heroes” – they just want to be called neighbor or friend.
P.S. – Please share with your students: Don’t ask a veteran if they were ever in combat. It’s really insensitive and can be triggering. If they were, they probably don’t want to talk about it, and if they weren’t, it can sound like you’re judging them as less than. Similarly, don’t ask first responders what was the goriest thing they’ve ever seen. Some things are better not relived.
That’s really good advice for students (and for people in general!). We just had the chance to visit the Holocaust Museum and hear a survivor speak. We told them something similar before the visit. You listen and you help someone bear witness, and it’s perfectly valid if people won’t talk about their experiences at all.
Yes. That’s good advice. Most veterans are happy to talk about military life in general and specifics of their specialty – what it’s like to be a tank operator, or military cop, or pilot, or whatever. But you’d be surprised how many kids ask if you’ve ever killed somebody…
Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life
I have military in every branch of my family it seems like, and that includes chosen family, so I long ago stopped thinking of it as a shopping holiday. But I was surprised by a fresh donation to our Lakota families today so I will actually be taking some time today to look for the best deals to help people, I guess Target IS on my list now. 🙂
I think helping people is a good way to honor our veterans who served for a better lives for their families and for our country, in general, and I do support organizations that support veterans’ mental health. Unfortunately the access to healthcare for wounded veterans is terrible.
Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life
I had removed this from my comment before but Crew Dog made me think I should share: I know that some of my veteran friends and family, particularly those who saw combat and suffered trauma, feel uncomfortable about being thanked for their service, so it might be good to replace that phrase with something else.
As @Military_Dollar has said, you can feel the difference between someone who is sincere and someone who is just parroting the phrase with no more intention than the way some people automatically say “have a nice day.”
Sincere appreciation and kindness is welcome. But any veteran would say that talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words. If you truly value national defense and the sacrifices of our country’s defenders, then take actions to ensure that they have sufficient salaries (the lowest ranks qualify for welfare) & adequate healthcare, and that veterans have appropriate healthcare as well. Look after the families of service members – be welcoming and supportive of them as members of your community.
Even if you object to military service on religious grounds or other non-violent beliefs, respect service members as fellow human beings, and seek to understand their experiences. Retire old stereotypes that are no longer valid, such as the military being full of high school drop-outs and criminals who couldn’t get any other jobs – you’d be surprised at how competitive it can be to be accepted into the military, how educated many service members are, and how challenging many of their jobs are.
The best way to honor someone in the military is to see them as a human being and treat them with the courtesy due to any human being. See them as your neighbor, your community member, your friend, your family member rather than othering them. It is better for our society that the civil-military gap narrows, rather than widening, in the sense that our defense should be in the hands of citizen-soldiers rather than a small caste of mercenaries.
Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early
Ten years ago, I was heading home with the husband to get married two days later to a then-active duty Marine. So it feels very close to me every year.