(BPT) - We hear a lot today about recognizing those people who have made a difference for our country and for our citizens. On Veterans Day, we recognize the many Americans who have made a profound impact on our nation and our future through their service in the U.S. military.
In 1918, at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of the year, World War I formally came to an end when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. That date, Nov. 11, would become known first as Armistice Day in recognition of those who fought and died in WWI. This celebration was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 by President Eisenhower as an annual event recognizing all veterans, across all eras of service.
Every year, Veterans Day is an occasion to thank and celebrate all those who have fought and served with courage and honor to protect the values of the United States, and the lives of its citizens. “The immense sacrifice that each servicemember has made for our country is something we should honor as often as we can to show our appreciation as fellow Americans,” says Vickie Koutz, chairman of the national Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Committee for the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA). “Every day should be Veterans Day."
This year, with the spread of COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions in effect in communities across the country, Veterans Day celebrations are going to look different in a year when veterans may need more support than ever before.
Even before the pandemic, loneliness was a common experience for veterans, with one survey showing that approximately 50% of veterans struggle with feelings of isolation. Now, through months of social distancing and quarantining, veterans of all ages are at increased risk of isolation, depression and suicide. And according to Military Times, even when the current health crisis winds down, experts believe veterans may experience long-term challenges with personal finances, lingering health issues and misplaced expectations about a return to “normalcy.”
We are living in a different time — but also at a time when we can truly make a difference. With the knowledge that veterans are more likely to be feeling these extreme stressors, the ALA has identified some key ways we can all take action this year and support our veterans in the ways they need:
Connect with veterans
- A phone call or personalized letter can let a veteran know how much you care about them, and how much you appreciate their service. If you’re not personally connected to a veteran, connect with the local ALA unit to see how you can volunteer to make a veteran feel special this Veterans Day.
Honor veterans you know
- Sharing pictures and inspiring stories of veterans you know on social media can be a great way to celebrate and uplift the veteran community. Many people are turning to digital spaces to feel a sense of community; let’s bring the Veterans Day celebration to them. Don’t forget to use hashtags like #veterans or #veteransday so others can find your posts.
Give your time and get involved
- American Legion posts regularly serve as locations for local blood drives, and with continued blood supply shortages as a result of COVID-19, donating blood in honor of our veterans is a powerful act of service you can make yourself.
- Many communities are hosting drive-by parades to recognize veterans. You can participate in these parades or even help lead an effort for your broader community.
- Display the American flag or other patriotic signage in your lawn, or partner with local organizations and businesses to put up displays and decorations. These symbols express communities’ solidarity with veterans, even when we can’t connect in person.
In an historic year of unprecedented change, we are reminded of the role our veterans play in seeing the nation through times of challenge — and what we can do to support them in return.
Visit www.ALAforVeterans.org to see how you can get involved and show your support.