When I was 16, my school board actually wanted us to go to school on Memorial Day so that we could have a 5 day weekend for Veterans Day. The reason? UF Homecoming is the same weekend and they wanted people to have the extra day off to celebrate. I was horrified. HORRIFIED. I mean, we wanted to place football over the lives of those who fought and died for us to have a homecoming in the first place? Being the mouthy teen that I was, I wrote a very stern letter and read it to the school board at their next meeting. I wish I had the speech still, but I told them they were teaching poor values, were disrespecting our troops, and that I would not be in school on Memorial Day.
The measure didn’t pass, but it did a few years later. I wrote another letter to the editor, but since I was no longer a teen in the system, no one noticed.
Needless to say, I’m a big supporter of the troops. I come from a military family and have experienced firsthand the sacrifices that parents, both the soldier and the spouse, make to keep our country safe. Whether it’s missed birthdays or time apart, living the military life isn’t always easy. So when I was 22 and bought a yellow ribbon ‘Support Your Troops’ magnet for my car, I ran and told my parents about this great thing I did.
Boy, was I wrong. Instead, my Dad informed me (in his own unique way), that I shouldn’t’ be buying that corporate crap and that if I really wanted to support the troops I should get off of my lazy butt and do something tangible. At the time, I scoffed. I had my yellow ribbon. I was displaying my pride. I was supporting the troops. And besides, the gas station that I bought it at said that a portion of the proceeds went to soldiers in need. Nine years later, I’m realizing that I’m turning into my Dad. I cringe at the yellow ribbons and feel a bit of shame when I realize that I was one of the couch supporters. (In all fairness, having the yellow ribbon and doing something tangible is okay.)
So tomorrow, I want you to remember that 23% of all homeless people are veterans. Remember that they sacrificed their lives and families for the sake of yours. And lastly, remember that they fought for your freedoms. Of course, you should take your kids to the parades and wave the $.25 flag. But when the fun part is over, don’t buy a yellow ribbon bumper sticker. Don’t go home and post a picture on Facebook about how you support the troops. Get up and do something. And remember, you don’t have to do this only on Veterans Day. Show your support by doing it on any given day.
Challenge: Do something nice for a Veteran.
- Buy a veteran coffee.
- Say thank you.
- Fill up their gas tank.
- Pay for someone’s meal. If there isn’t a veteran in the restaurant, ask your server if you can leave money for the next one who comes in.
- Volunteer at the VA.
- Write a letter thanking a veteran through one of the many services available, like Operation Gratitude.
- Browse Books for Soldiers and send some books.
- Send a care package. Many organizations do this, like Operation Care Package.
- Choose an organization. There are hundreds, spend as little or as much time/money as you want.
- Donate your old cell phones so that deployed troops can call home.