I served in the Army from 1993 – 2004, and I have a confession to make.
I dread Veterans Day.
Maybe it’s the parades. I stood at attention through too many military parades and ceremonies, and won’t ever consciously choose to do it again.
Maybe it’s the commercialism – I’m hacked that companies make a mint selling Greeting Cards for Veterans Day or that use Veterans Day as a tool to promote their “brand” while 22 Veterans today will commit suicide for lack of financial help or support.
Maybe its the “pomp-and-circumstance”. Every day I use my law license to fight for and with my brothers-and-sisters-in-arms. For 364 days each year I struggle to get many of you to pay attention to – or support – a Veteran or a worthy Veterans’ organization.
When Veterans Day rolls around, everybody tries to appear supportive of our nation’s soldiers and Veterans. The next day, most of you go on about your lives and just plain forget about the Soldier’s Sacrifice.
Maybe I’m too much of a cynic.
Whatever the reason, I observe Veterans Day quietly, in my own way.
You won’t see me at parades or giving speeches. You won’t find me at work. My firm’s website may even “go dark” on Veterans Day. This day is my day to recall the Soldier’s Sacrifice in a deeper way.
Here’s are 9 ways (because 10 is just too cliche) you can make this Veterans Day count.
I have done – or will do – many items on this list. They share a common thread: each calls on you to feel and appreciate the sacrifice that so many have made for the Greater Good of our Nation.
I encourage you to do them on the day that will require you to make the MOST sacrifice – whether or not that is Veterans Day. Giving one’s life for one’s country isn’t something that is easy, or that you can schedule.
Soldiers and Veterans made sacrifices – hard sacrifices. This Veterans Day – will you?
9) SPEND ONE HOUR ON THANKSGIVING OR CHRISTMAS WITH A WOUNDED VETERAN.
Many of our nation’s Veterans spend their holidays in the hospital. Alone.
Families and friends have passed on or moved away. Caretakers abandon Veterans out of sheer exhaustion. Some Vets are in long-term care situations far from home and support networks.
Every VA Medical Center has a list of Veterans that spend the holidays alone. Contact your local VA Medical Center, and ask to talk to the Volunteer Coordinator. Here’s where you can go to get that contact information:
8) Hold a neighborhood “meet-and-greet” to get to know the Veterans in your neighborhood. Learn what they need.
Does your neighborhood have a Homeowner’s Association?
If so, have the HOA set aside one night in November to have a “meet-and-greet” for the Veterans in your neighborhood.
If not, recruit a neighbor to help you host a Veterans’ Meet-and-Greet.
How will this help?
WW2 Vets are dying every day – many die alone right next door. OIF/OEF Veterans (those that served in Iraq and Afghanistan) need some guidance making the transition from military to civilian life.
Some Veterans just need someone nearby to talk to. Some need help getting to and from doctor appointments. Some just need a meal – or help fixing a stove.
At the very least, you might gain a new appreciation for our National Values, while seeking to understand what your Veteran neighbors had to sacrifice to preserve them.
7) Don’t just donate money – raise awareness for your donation
My law firm sets aside 10% of its Net Revenue every year to contribute to worthy Veterans causes.
Rather than just give the money away, we promote our donation. We don’t promote the donation to make ourselves look good – instead, our goal of promotion is to help raise awareness for the organization we are donating to.
For example, on my law firm’s Twitter account, we are doing a “Twitter Challenge”. (link to: http://www.attiglawfirm.com/blog/va-benefits/november-2013-twitter-challenge-for-heroes-on-the-water/)
For every new Twitter follower at @Vetlaw_US twitter this November, I will donate 20 cents to Heroes on the Water (link to: www.heroesonthewater.org), up to $1,000.
The goal is to get 5,000 new Twitter followers to the Attig Law Firm Twitter Feed, and by doing so donate $1,000 to Heroes on the Water. Not only does Heroes on the Water receive $1,000 for its mission – a mission that is as important as anything that can be done for Veterans recovering from combat PTS (Post-Traumatic Stress) – but we educate 5,000 people about the work they do to bring combat Veterans back to life.
Were you going to give $25 to your favorite Veterans non-profit? Make it a Twitter challenge, or a Facebook Challenge. Don’t do it for self-promotion – do it to promote the organization you support.
6) HELP A HOMELESS VETERAN.
Too many Combat Veterans are homeless. The highest percentage of homeless veterans is between 18 and 30 years old. These are the boys and girls that fought in Iraq (OIF) and Afghanistan (OEF). Far too many have no access to a warm meal or a roof over their head.
Take the day off from work on Veterans Day. Go to Target or Wal-mart and buy 5 blankets (or 10, or 20). Donate the blankets to a homeless shelter in your community.
Better yet, buy a warm sleeping bag and give it directly to a homeless Vet on the street. It’s a small gesture, but it may save a Vet’s life on a cold night.
You can give a homeless Veteran $20, or whatever you can afford.
Maybe he’ll may spend it on booze or cigarettes, but he/she might also spend it on food, or Tylenol, or cough medicine.
Homeless Veterans lack basic human dignity. The ability to walk into a store and purchase one thing that they need or want restores a lot of lost dignity.
Regardless whether you agree with their purchase, giving them the ability to make a choice on their own may turn out to be a life-changing event.
5) Help prevent Veteran suicides.
You go to church, right?
If not, I’m sure you belong to at least one organization or group.
Call your church, or the organization you are a member of: ask if they would publish information about the Veterans Crisis Line through newsletters, bulletins, Facebook pages or Twitter feeds.
Believe it or not, many Vets don’t know that there is a way to reach out, in the dark of the night, to talk about their desire to commit suicide. Here’s the information – spread it far and wide:
Website (link to: http://veteranscrisisline.net/)
Chat Online (link to http://veteranscrisisline.net/ChatTermsOfService.aspx?account=Veterans%20Chat)
Send Text to 838-255
4) Be a voice.
We live in the Information Age.
The problem is that so MUCH information is drowned out for lack of a Voice.
Be that Voice.
Here are some ideas:
– Tweet once a day about the Veterans Crisis Line mentioned above
– Every week, post on Facebook and tell your family/friends about a Veterans non-profit that does great work in your community
– Print up 500 business cards with the website of your favorite Veterans Support organization and hand out 5 a day for the next 3 months. Business cards are really cheap these days…check this site out [link to http://us.moo.com/] (I get no compensation for referring this business- I just really like them).
3) Support a cause you DON’T believe in.
According to Wikipedia 1,321,612 American men and women died in military service to their country.
How many did NOT support the politics behind the war they died in? Still, they served. Still, they sacrificed.
By giving even $10 to a cause you DON’T believe in, you honor the Value of Sacrifice for the Greater Common Good.
You may gain a greater realization that no matter who we are, where we come from, the color of our skin, how much money we have, what church we go to, or what political party we support, we all have an Equal Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of our own concept of Happiness.
I like to include a note that says:
“I don’t support your cause. But here’s $10 because I know somewhere, sometime, a soldier that did support your cause died on a battlefield before he could give you $10. I’m making this sacrifice in his memory.”
2) Volunteer your time with a Veterans Non-Profit.
Money isn’t the only way to help.
Some groups need people to volunteer time to help at a Veterans event or fundraiser.
Find a Veterans non-profit whose goals and vision you share and admire. Go out and volunteer a day or two of your time to help them out.
1) Visit a Soldier’s grave.
On your lunch hour this Veterans Day, go out to a Veterans cemetery. Click here (link to: http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/) to find one near you.
Find a soldier’s grave without flowers or flags.
Sit by the graveside, and imagine the soldier’s life before war. Imagine what it was like to die on a battlefield. Imagine the life – the family, the friends, the job, the children – that soldier never came back to.
See what bubbles up – it may be a greater understanding of the Soldier’s Sacrifice. It may be a commitment to make a change in the way you live your life. It may be a desire to help soldiers or Veterans.
Regardless of how it affects you, simply sitting by the graveside of a soldier helps to honor the immeasurable sacrifice he or she made so that you can live – free and (I hope) happy.
I hope this article gave you an idea how you can make this Veterans’ Day count.
I’d love to hear from you if you have a creative way to recognize the Soldier’s Sacrifice – on Veterans’ Day or any other day of the year.
Send me an email at [email protected] and tell me your idea.