As we get closer to Veterans Day, I like to reflect on why we observe the holiday and what it has become. Veterans Day shares a distinction separate from Memorial Day in many countries (learn more about the differences here). Originally coined as Armistice Day, Veterans Day was first celebrated on Nov. 11, 1919, at the first anniversary of the end of World War I, which officially ended on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” For the U.S., President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954.
However, the current Veterans Day holiday has evolved into a different sort of celebration. Most individuals active on social media will share a picture or message thanking veterans. Many veterans may enjoy a free meal at popular chain restaurants or it’s a reason to grill burgers. You can even take advantage of great deals on furniture and automobiles as part of a “Huge Veterans Day Blowout Sale!” While we all can agree that any blowout sale is a welcome sight in our current economy, this doesn’t scratch the surface of the actual intent of the holiday.
I, along with an estimated 23% of veterans, suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is a spectrum disorder that affects individuals in different ways. I was lucky to have a fantastic support system, both professionally and personally. Unfortunately, many veterans are not so lucky. PTSD can result in depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and even death from suicide. Aside from PTSD, there are approximately 67,495 homeless veterans (10.6% of all homeless in the U.S. alone) and 1.5 million U.S. veterans live below the federal poverty level. In summary, veterans from all countries are suffering.
Although Veterans Day was created around honoring and supporting veterans, the reality is that when Veterans transition out of active service, they often lose the stringent support system the military provides. Often, veterans have trouble relating to people or reconnecting with family and friends. Coupled with the absence of camaraderie, honor, and mission, these things can lead to a loss of identity and purpose.
As you can see from the metrics above, things have fallen short of the original intent of “honoring veterans.” This problem has become too large for a handful of individuals to solve alone from a blog post. There are, however, small acts of kindness each person can do to make a difference in a veteran’s life. Even supporting veterans in your local area can result in incremental change towards a bigger solution. At Blue Yonder, we get 16 volunteer hours per year. There are so many ways to give back, many in your local community. Below are some examples of small things we can do to make a huge impact. I encourage everyone to take some time out of their Veterans Day and give back to honor those who have fought to keep us safe.
- Monetary donation or volunteer with support agencies like United Service Organizations (USO), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), or Homes for Our Troops (HFOT).
- Sponsor a service animal for a veteran with PTSD. One such organization is Puppies Behind Bars.
- Visit a local veterans assisted living home and sit and talk with veterans. I do this once every three months and they LOVE it.
- Donate an old cell phone or unwanted clothing and household items to a veterans-related charity.
- Drive a veteran to an appointment or volunteer with “DAV Transportation Network.”
- Participate in Special Campaigns that promote veterans-related causes.
- Simply find a veteran and say, “Thank you.”
Learn more about Veterans Day here.
David Shaver is a military veteran having served 20 years (and retired!) in the U.S. Air Force. You can read his other DIVE In blog post “How Suicide Impacted Me and Why I Want to Spread a Message of Hope This Holiday Season.” If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, dial 988 in the U.S. to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or 0800 689 5652 in the UK to reach the National Suicide Helpline UK. Both are available 24/7. For a listing of other countries check out this blog.