Veterans Day is not just another long weekend.
What does Veterans Day mean to you? An excuse for a weekend trip or a blowout sale at the mall? Most Americans don’t think too hard about what Veterans Day means beyond “a day off of work.”
But our ancestors instituted civic holidays for a reason. Recovering their meaning plays a part in restoring American values. As a society, we decided that it was important enough to set aside a day from work to honor our veterans.
Here are a few ideas on ways you could honor the men and women who have served in our military this holiday weekend.
1. Skip the sale. Make a donation to a charity that supports veterans.
There are lots of wonderful charitable organizations devoted to serving America’s veterans. Wounded Warriors. Fisher House. Pick one that has a mission you believe in and support our veterans with the money you would have spent on amusements this weekend.
2. Take a veteran in your community out to lunch.
Grab a friend, family member, or neighbor who has served and take them out for lunch on Veterans Day.
This does not need to break the bank. In fact, some American restaurant chains offer a free meals for veterans on Veterans Day. Check out a list of those restaurants here.
3. Interview an elderly veteran, and record the interview for future generations.
WWII veterans are disappearing. Only about 3% of WWII veterans are still alive, and experts estimate that 348 die every day. To preserve their stories for the next generation, they must be recorded now.
Want some inspiration? Read the story of this young man who has made it his goal to interview every living WWII veteran.
4. Read literature written by veterans.
The changing nature of war means fewer and fewer Americans have served in the military. How can life-long civilians hope to understand what our veterans have endured?
Try reading literature written by veterans to get a sense of their experiences. Check out some books written by American veterans, grouped by conflict, here. Looking for a good place to start? Try the WWI poets.
5. Write and send a letter to someone currently serving in the military.
Our deployed service members could use your encouragement. Or, better yet, send a care package. Click here for some options on how to send greetings to our troops.
6. Visit the gravesite of a veteran.
Yes, Memorial Day is for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. But we also honor our beloved dead who served today. For many of us, the veteran we knew best was a parent or grandparent who is no longer with us. Bring one of the youngest members of your family along with you, and pass on the story of your family’s departed veteran to them.