While recognizing, respecting, and remembering our veterans should be an everyday occurrence, November is an especially significant time of year. Veteran’s Day, and Military Families Month, more broadly, is a chance for people of all ages and backgrounds to publicly express their gratitude towards those who put their lives on the line to ensure our freedom.
“Remembrance itself is obviously important, but, on its own, it is not enough to adequately thank those who sacrificed so much in order to serve their country,” says Brad Lunt, Founder and President of GoatGuns, a premium collectible miniature toy gun model brand committed to supporting veterans and military families. “It’s important to take tangible actions to demonstrate to these brave men and women that their actions are never forgotten and always appreciated.”
Connect with a veteran through a personalized message
For many veterans, the simple act of being recognized and thanked can make a world of difference. Drafting a personalized letter, postcard, or email that expresses your gratitude for their service is both an opportunity for personal reflection and a chance to bring light into a veteran’s life.
For those who do not know a veteran personally, sending a letter to the nearest military installation or getting in touch with a military family is a great way to get involved. Letter-writing can also build community: organizing group events through churches, schools, and neighborhoods encourage wider participation and gives people the chance to develop strong bonds.
“When it comes to connecting with veterans, keep it simple and sincere: even small, anonymous thank-yous can have a profound impact,” says Lunt. “Expressing your thanks, adding a small, personal touch about what their sacrifice has meant for your life, and asking questions about their most positive memories from service gives them something tangible and meaningful to reflect on.”
Volunteer or make a donation
It is an unfortunate reality that many veterans continue to experience poverty and lack of access to essential services after returning home. There are a number of accredited veterans’ organizations–such as The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans–that have stepped up to provide these services. These organizations are in need of both donations and volunteers all year round, and if you are not involved already, Veterans’ Day and Military Families Month are great times to start looking at how you can help.
Donations take many forms beyond just monetary donations: donating food or clothing to veterans in need is an even more direct way to demonstrate your commitment to bettering the lives of those who served so bravely to better yours. Also, donating gifts and memorabilia that represent positive memories from their time serving can provide them with meaningful mementos they can be proud of for a lifetime.
“I have always felt that business owners should try to think deeply about how their products and services can be used to help veterans in need,” says Lunt. “At GoatGuns, we started sending out CARE packages, which provide veterans with logbooks, pens, personalized messages, and a model firearm featuring a special star emblem. This Veterans Day, we will be releasing a unique vintage M1 Garand model and offering a veteran’s discount.”
Shop at a veteran-owned business or offer a discount
To properly address the immensity of the sacrifice that military personnel makes, it’s crucial to offer emotional and material support. Emotional support means showing up for veterans and trying, however you can, to connect with them on a personal level. Material support means engaging in business practices that help them secure their financial well-being, now and for the future.
Start doing research to find out what businesses in your community are owned by veterans or military families. Shopping at these establishments in person helps support them and their families and gives you the opportunity to express your thanks in person. Likewise, if you are a business owner yourself, offering a veterans’ discount and using it as a means to create moments of connection is an effective way to make a lasting, personal contribution.
Learn about military history
One of the deepest but least obvious ways to thank a veteran is to educate yourself about the history of the conflict(s) they participated in and military history more generally. The idea of memory and commemoration is central to Veterans’ Day and has deep personal importance to many veterans, as it reminds them of the reasons behind their decision to make such extraordinary sacrifices. Understanding this history is personally enriching to learn about, and delving into it is a gesture of respect towards those who actually lived that history.
Get children involved
In all of the events listed above, it’s important to find a way to get children involved. Topics surrounding war and military history can be difficult to talk to children about, so finding resources and projects online is a good way to teach them the holiday’s importance. Also, giving them a helping hand while writing letters can be a powerful teaching tool.
“Finding ways to get children involved is absolutely critical to ensuring that the traditions of respect and reverence associated with Veteran’s Day remain vibrant in the future,” says Lunt. “In many respects, finding ways to educate young people and pass down historical knowledge gets to the heart of what this day is about. Veterans and military families have impacted all of our lives, often in ways that aren’t immediately visible, and making these impacts known is not just our responsibility: it’s our duty.”