As we plan our upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend, consider these 20 ways to honor veterans beyond Memorial Day. We will certainly enjoy our cookouts, parades and a day off, thanks to their service.
Here are some ideas to discuss with your family and friends to honor our living veterans and to pay tribute to those who have gone before us and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
1. Volunteering to place flags on military graves
Growing up, my Dad brought me and my siblings along before Memorial Day to place flags on the graves of servicemen and women. We were instructed that this was a solemn task and no complaining was tolerated. I can remember hot days, cold days, rainy days and bug-infested days. It didn’t matter to Dad. He would explain that our servicemen and women endured these conditions and much worse to keep us safe and free. It was a regular family project that left a deep impression on all of us. Contact your local American Legion or VFW organization to volunteer your time during the military holidays and all year long.
2. Reach out to a military family in your community
Extend a hand in friendship to a military family. Invite them over for a meal, bring them a meal or invite them out for dinner. Something as simple as running an errand or taking a walk together can forge a friendship. If Mom or Dad is deployed, there will be additional challenges for the spouse at home. Get to know them and find out what you can offer. Simple gestures such as clipping extra diaper coupons, cutting the grass or helping to put up Christmas lights can mean so much when you are alone.
3. Put it in writing
Write a letter of thanks to a military family, those currently in the service or a veteran through Operation Gratitude.
4. Gather for a send-off
The Pease Greeters are a volunteer group of individuals who see our troops off at the airport when they leave the US and head for the Middle East. The Pease Greeters always give out gifts to the soldiers along with snacks they can take on the airplane. Connect with them and join them for a send-off or donate so they can provide care packages.
5. Visit an older veteran or wounded vet
Contact a nursing home or a veterans hospital. A visit can brighten a day and help a veteran to know they are not forgotten. The Walter Reed National Military Center has a Facebook page that provides inspiration and ideas.
6. Foster a pet
The Guardian Angels for Soldiers Pets arranges foster care for the pets of the military when they are deployed, during basic training or if they are unable to care for them. Contact them if you are able to provide a temporary home for a beloved pet.
7. Assist with mental health
If you’re a mental health professional, donate your services to Give an Hour, which connects counselors to service members, veterans and their families.
8. Survivors helping survivors
Connecting family members who have lost service members with those in similar situations is the mission of TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
9. Support for families
The National Military Family Association helps families of combat-weary service members, anxious children awaiting a parent’s return, spouses seeking educations to better their families or prepare for the unthinkable, widows coping with their losses and resolve challenges for these families.
10. Help with the Transition
Blue Star Families was created a group of military spouses to assist active duty, National Guard, Reserve, wounded, and transitioning service members and their families from all ranks and services.
11. Send expired coupons
You can send your extra coupons and even your expired coupons to the troops which they can use in their PX or BX. Visit ocpnet to get more information.
12. Help a Vet to Tell Their Story
Help a veteran tell their story through a project such as the Veteran’s History Project. You can download a VHP field kit from the Library of Congress website.
13. Help the Greatest Generation to the WWII Memorial
A wonderful organization called the Honor Flight Network has flown 110,000 vets mostly in their 80’s and 90’s to the World War II Memorial since it opened in 2004. Seeing the WWII Memorial was a real highlight for my Dad before he passed away a few years ago.
14. Donate When Buying or Selling a Home
Through The Donation Nation Realty Network, Soldiers’ Angels is eligible to receive a $5,000 donation of real estate commission in your name at no cost to you. If you are in the process of buying or selling, click here to sign up with The Donation Nation Realty Network and select Soldiers’ Angels as your nonprofit of choice.
15. Adopt a Soldier – make this a family project and adopt a soldier throughout their deployment
16. Angel Bakers – make Homemade treats for the deployed
17. Blankets – make handmade blankets for deployed, veterans & wounded
18. Operation Phone Home – donate calling cards to our troops.
19. Operation Top Knot – make handmade gifts & virtual baby showers
20. Offer a Ride
Offer a vet a ride by volunteering with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization, which provides free transportation to men and women unable to travel to VA medical facilities on their own.
Visit serve.gov and use keyword “veterans” to find more opportunities to serve our nation’s veterans.