Every year on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we honor those who have and continue to serve their country in the armed forces. In America, we call this Veterans Day; in other parts of the world, such as the U.K., they refer to it as Remembrance Day. A few things remain the same, however: the date, the symbolic poppies worn in buttonholes of coats and hanging off purses or from the rearview mirrors of cars, and the desire to show extra appreciation for those who put their lives on the line for us.
While our veterans deserve to be honored and recognized every day of the year, we want to share with you a few special things you can do to show your support and appreciation on November 11.
1. Plant a commemorative poppy or tulip.
As a way to honor veterans in an everlasting manner, there's no better option than planting a commemorative poppy or tulip. Why a poppy or a tulip you may ask?
After World War I, poppies began to pop up in droves across Europe, which many assumed was due to the now lime-enriched soil as an aftermath of the war. The flower soon was recognized as a symbol of all the blood that had been shed in battle. Later, on September 27, 1920, the poppy became the official flower of The American Legion to memorialize the soldiers who served and died in World War I.
Meanwhile, in Canada, the tulip started as a symbolic gesture on behalf of Princess Juliana of Holland to Canada in honor of the 7,600 Canadians who died fighting to free the Netherlands in World War II. She sent Canada 100,000 tulip bulbs after the war, and every year since, Holland continues to send Canada 20,000 bulbs.
2. Write a letter.
If you know someone who is stationed far from home, including overseas, now's the time to set aside a moment to surprise them and write them a letter. Getting mail is a surefire way to brighten someone's day. Even if you don't personally know any veterans, there are a number of nonprofit organizations in the U.S. that allow you to write letters to a randomly assigned soldier, such as Operation Gratitude, Adopt a U.S. Soldier, Any Soldier, Doing Good Together, and Soldiers' Angels.
3. Donate your time and/or resources.
There are a variety of ways you can show your support by donating your time or financial resources, which include:
- Volunteering at a local Veterans Hospital or Veterans Center. Find the facilities closest to you on the Veterans Affairs website!
- Putting together homemade care packages for the troops. The aforementioned organizations, Operation Gratitude and Soldiers' Angels, in addition to Support Our Troops and Operation Shoebox, all specialize in soldier care packages. (Click here for ideas on what to put in a care package!)
- Donating to organizations that support soldiers and veterans, as well as their families, such as TAPS or Folds of Honor.
- Help veterans learn about the programs and support that are available to them, such as a VA loan when buying a house.
4. Visit a national park.
Spending time—particularly amid the soothing peace and quiet of nature—is yet another great way to show your beloved veteran that you care, and there's no better place to go than one of the the U.S.'s 58 national parks. What's more? On Veterans Day weekend, the National Park Service offers free admission to everyone. You can find your nearest national park here!
5. Say thank you.
Perhaps the simplest idea of them all, though not to rid it of its merit, is to say thank you if you happen to see someone in uniform, or identifying as a veteran in some other way, in public. A quick word of thanks or small act of kindness, like discreetly paying for their cup of coffee or even just opening a door for them, will help demonstrate how much their service means to you.
For more great information for veterans and their families and friends, see the following resources: the National Veterans Foundation (U.S.); the European Organization of Military Associations (Europe); the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans' Association (Australia); the NATO Veterans Organization of Canada (Canada); and the World Veterans Foundation (global).