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 Veterans Day and 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 amillionthanks.org.
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
Dogs on Deployment is a 501(c)(3) national non-profit which provides an online network for service members to search for volunteers who are willing to board their pets during their owner’s service commitments. Dogs on Deployment promotes responsible, life-long pet ownership by military pet owners by advocating for military pet owner rights, providing educational resources and granting financial assistance for military pet owners during times of emergency.
Also, consider Pets for Vets, this organization pairs shelter dogs with veterans in an effort to ease the emotional wounds of war. Volunteers are needed to offer foster care for rescues, as are professional trainers to prepare the dogs for their new roles.
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 by 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 coupons
SupportOurTroops.org will send your coupons to our troops. According to their website, food coupons are preferred followed by baby supplies and common household goods. Get all the information you need including how to sort and package your coupons.
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 Get 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 for free since it opened in 2004. Seeing the WWII Memorial was a real highlight for my Dad before he passed away a few years ago. The Greatest Generation is leaving us. Learn more about Honor Flight. I was touched to meet a flight at the Baltimore Airport last year and it blessed me beyond measure.
14. Change Your Porch Light Bulb to Green
Change one light in a visible location in your home or office to green, and keep it glowing every day as a symbol of support and appreciation for our veterans. Take a photo and share it on social media with the hashtag #greenlightavet. Visit GreenlightAVet.com for more information.
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 and help with virtual baby showers
20. Offer a Ride – volunteer with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization. They provide free transportation to men and women unable to travel to VA medical facilities on their own.
Or join the VA’s Volunteer Transportation Network and you can drive veterans to and from their appointments for services. Find out more at Volunteer.va.gov.
Thanks to my kind-hearted readers, I was sent several other ways to honor veterans. Please keep sending your ideas and I will keep updating this post.
21. Share your expertise
Sign up to teach a class or be a mentor to wounded veterans interested in exploring business opportunities after they leave the hospital at 100entproject.org
22. Donate gifts for kids in Iraq and Afghanistan and Improve Relations
Operation Give collects toys and school and art supplies that our troops can then distribute to local children in the areas where they are serving at Operationgive.org.
23. Share your points
Transfer your hotel rewards points to Fisher House Foundation’s “Hotels for Heroes” program, which provides accommodations to the families of military service members who are undergoing medical treatment at Fisherhouse.org
24. Help throw a baby shower
Help an expectant mom whose husband is deployed or injured by sending a gift or volunteering in person at a party hosted by Operation Shower.
Honor a Veteran by Flying the Flag Properly
“The flag is considered a living thing and should be treated with respect. In case you were wondering how to properly display your patriotism, we’ve listed tips provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Senate.
*Should be flown from sunrise to sunset, unless it’s illuminated during dark.
*Should not be subject to inclement weather — rain, snow, and windstorms — unless it’s an all-weather flag.
*Should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
*When carried in procession with other flags, it should be either on the flag’s right or to the front and center of the flag line.
*Should not be draped over a vehicle in a parade.
*In a group of flags displayed from staffs, it should always be at the center and at the highest point.
*When displayed from a staff projecting from a building, the union should be at the peak.
*When flags of states, cities or organizations are flown on the same staff, it must be at the top.
*When displayed against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the observer’s left.
*Should never be used as a covering for a statue or a monument.
*Should never be displayed with the union down.
*Should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, floor or water.
*Should never be used as apparel, bedding or drapery.
*When it is no longer a fitting emblem for display (worn or soiled), it should be destroyed, preferably by burning.”
Ask your local scout troop or American Legion organization to help you to dispose of an old flag properly.
We will stop to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy. As a proud U.S. Army veteran, married to a Vietnam veteran and the daughter or a World War II veteran, I thank all of the servicemen and women serving our country today and I honor the memory of our fallen heroes.
If you want to find a bugler for a memorial service for a veteran, contact Bugles Across America.
“Bugles Across America now has over 4000 bugler volunteers located in all 50 states and growing number overseas. Since the Department of Veterans Affairs is expecting more than 1/2 million veterans to pass every year for the next 7 years, Bugles Across America is ALWAYS recruiting new volunteers. “
Spread kindness and thank a veteran today.
Visit serve.gov and use keyword “veterans” to find more opportunities to serve our nation’s veterans.