The following article originally appeared at In Military.
By Wes O’Donnell
In 1918, at the close of one of the most horrific wars in modern history, the fighting officially ceased at the 11thhour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The day became known as Armistice Day around the world. The United States Congress officially recognized the day by making it a national holiday in 1938, but it wasn’t until 1947 in Alabama that a young WW2 veteran named Raymond Weeks called it a “National Veterans Day”. The name stuck. By 1954 Congress passed the bill that President Eisenhower signed proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day. Raymond Weeks would later go on to receive the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Reagan in 1982.
In the United States, you can’t throw a rock without hitting either a veteran or someone that knows or is related to a veteran. Such is our proud military tradition in this country. And despite the turmoil of our beloved Vietnam-Era heroes, today’s veterans are rightly honored nearly nationwide by conservatives and liberals alike.
So how can you show your appreciation for the men and women that have sacrificed on our behalf? We’ve all heard the “raise a flag in your neighborhood” or “attend a Veterans Day parade” options, but what are some of the practical ways that you can show your gratitude for your freedom?
Volunteer at a VA hospital
We’ve all heard the veteran’s hospital horror stories, but the bottom line is that there are amazing VA caregivers and employees doing a thankless job day in and day out. They welcome volunteers with open arms.
Pick up the tab for a veteran
See that guy over there wearing a Vietnam Veteran hat? Wouldn’t it be awesome if you told the server that you wanted to pay his tab for him?
Make a tax-deductible donation to a reputable veteran charity
Just remember to do your research. Unfortunately, there are several shady veterans’ charities that attempt to capitalize on the good will shown towards our heroes. Here’s a good place to start: https://www.charitywatch.org/home
Seek out Veteran-Owned Small Businesses
You have to shop anyway, might as well spend your money at a store that is owned by a veteran; or at least one that is vet friendly. Home Depot and Texas Roadhouse are two that come to mind.
Offer freebies at your business
Do you own a business? Offer veteran discounts! In my state of Michigan, we have “Veteran” right on our driver’s license making it easy to get a discount when one is offered. Most vets don’t seek out discounts, but they’re nice when they pop up.
Support our WARDOGS aka Military Working Dogs (MWDs)
Don’t forget, MWDs are veterans too! Support the Vetdogs program with a donation or by spreading the word about their program.
Remember that there are 364 other days to celebrate our Veterans
When choosing to volunteer, service members do much more than march off to war. We give up our personal autonomy on where we want to live and work. We willingly sacrifice holidays, birthdays and family milestones. Thanks to amazing universities like American Military University, we no longer have to postpone educational pursuits, but any professional civilian careers have to get put on hold. We often sacrifice our personal passions and hobbies as many of the hours are unconventional. And perhaps most importantly, we put enormous strain on relationships, push loved ones to the breaking point, and leave memories behind every few years as our jobs sometimes require us to relocate.
Honoring veterans year round makes their sacrifice a little more bearable.