Next Monday is Veterans Day. Thank a Vet For His or Her Service
Monday, November 11th, is Veterans Day; a day to recognize, honor, and thank the over 23 million men and women who served our country while in uniform. According to the 2007 census, 7.6 million of this number are Vietnam veterans, 2.7 million are Korean War veterans and 2.3 million fought in World War II. Another 4.5 million are listed as “Gulf War” veterans, which means they served in theater between 1990 to present.
The above statistics suggest that most of us are surrounded by veterans in our family, neighborhood, and community; therefore, it should be no problem to recognize, honor, and thank them. But don’t forget that Veterans Day is a federal holiday, which means it comes with a variety of “too good to miss” distractions like red hot sales at the mall, a three day weekend ideally suited for slipping away for one last trip to the beach, or perhaps a trip to the mountains, or maybe a family picnic or barbecue. In other words, distractions that have little or nothing to do with honoring our veterans, which is the purpose of the holiday. So we must use our time wisely.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that you don’t know any veterans but would like to thank one on Veterans Day for his or her service to our country. How do you go about finding one? Here are three clues to help you in your search:
Clue Number One: Baseball Caps
Look around you and you will see these caps most every day and for sure, they will be out in force on Veterans Day. Caps like these serve as a resume for the wearers, explaining what branch of the service they were in, what war they fought in, if any, and what they did in the service that they were most proud of e.g. helicopter pilot, submariner, special forces, Marine Corps, etc. I guarantee you that if you walk up to veterans wearing one of these caps, you will not only get a chance to thank them for their service, but get to hear an interesting story as well. And it will only take a few minutes to listen.
Clue Number Two: T Shirts
The same thing can be said about T-shirts that was said about baseball caps above. There’s a lot of patriotic T-shirts on the market these days and they are not hard to find. I notice that the Cracker Barrel restaurant gift shop seems to specialize in T-shirts like these so you might want to check there before Veterans Day.
Clue Number Three: License Plates
I believe that most veterans, especially those from the Vietnam era or earlier, are at the age where they feel the need to remember their service to our country and to be remembered for that service as well. “Remember and be remembered,” that’s the key to talking to the older veterans. Therefore, when you stop to chat with an older veteran, it’s best to ask a few questions, then listen carefully to what he or she has to say, before thanking him or her for their service. You’ll will be surprised at the fascinating things you will learn using that strategy.
One final thought. Every once in a while you’ll run into veterans that are absolute verifiable American heroes. Such encounters are rare but when they happen you have to be prepared to drop everything you’re doing and listen to them very carefully. Otherwise, you may never get another chance to talk to them again. Case in point, I was walking down the halls of the local VA hospital recently when a spry, elderly man walked by wearing a baseball cap that said “World War II Veteran” “You are a World War II vet,” I commented. “My dad was in the Navy during World War II.” “Yep,” he replied never breaking his stride, “ I was on the Bataan death march after the Japanese occupied the Philippines.” I was in a hurry at the time so I merely made some comment thanking him for his service and continued on my way. A few steps further it hit me like a thunderbolt. The Bataan death march? Oh my gosh. This man is a walking history book. I’ve got to talk to him. Spinning around quickly, I saw him disappearing into a nearby doctor’s office. I never saw him again.
So there you have it. Older veterans need to remember and be remembered. We need to ask a few questions and then listen to what they have to say, and then most importantly, thank them for their service. Try this on Veterans Day or even the days leading up to Veterans Day. You will find it an extremely rewarding experience.