U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian McNeal
Each year over Veterans Day we witness a wonderful outpouring of love for our veteran community. "Happy Veterans Day," parades, free meals, "thank yous," and vet-centric events are par for the course over the holiday and the weekends that proceed and follow it.
But what about the other 51 weeks of the year?
While many of you are veterans yourselves, some of our readers are in a relationship of some kind with a currently serving veteran or a veteran of past conflict. We know how to support the veterans in our own homes.
But I believe we also have a responsibility to support the other veterans around us, and help our civilian neighbors do the same. We can lead by example.
So how do we do that? Here are five ideas.
1. Listen. Over Veterans Day weekend this year I worked with our community and the local Team Red, White & Blue chapter to run a Veterans Town Hall. Inspired by an idea in Sebastian Junger's book "Tribe," the town hall had a simple goal: give veterans a space to talk about their service, and the community a space to listen. While we did not have a huge turnout — only around 50 people — we were able to light a fire on what I hope will be a long-term movement of saying "happy Veterans Day" by listening. Through the simple act of listening we extended grace and understanding to our veteran neighbors. We can do more of that, and we can do it beyond Veterans Day weekend.
2. "Thank a Vet" in a video. Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has an awesome way to create a keepsake to #ThankaVet. You can upload a customized message and a few photos, and the site will turn them into a tribute video. The videos are something you can create and share year round.
3. Serve all year long. Veterans don't just exist on Veterans Day. The Veterans Home in my little town's downtown is there every day of the year. Veterans are homeless in our nearest major city. My veteran neighbor will always need his driveway shoveled after it snows. Not every act of service to our community takes a big effort. But every act matters.
4. Tell your civilian friends. When you get ready to help your community's veterans, invite your civilian friends to come along. I find that my civilian friends don't ignore veterans on purpose — they just don't really know any. We can be the people who can help make that connection.
5. Join a veteran organization. Your local VFW and American Legion both have auxiliary memberships for non-veterans. Team Red, White & Blue exists purely to connect veterans with their communities, and getting involved is incredibly easy. Team Rubicon is constantly seeking volunteers for the important work they do with disaster relief. Military spouses often focus their volunteer efforts on the currently serving population — and maybe you just flat out don't have time to add something else to your plate. But if you do, consider even just showing up for one of these groups' (or countless others') events. You won't be sorry.
There's nothing wrong with wishing anyone a "happy Veterans Day" or using Veterans Day to shine the spotlight on veterans in our community. But let's keep the momentum going all year long.