Freedom isn't free. Without the countless sacrifices the members of our military have made over the years, we wouldn’t have our country.
There are close to 1.5 million active-duty US military members and countless more who are retired or in reserve/guard duty. These brave Americans have given up a lot to protect our freedoms, and we should treat them with the utmost respect.
Want to show your support for our military? Here are some unique ways to show veterans appreciation year-round.
Attend Local Events
In May and November, look for local events that celebrate Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Most towns and cities will hold a combination of ball games, breakfasts, charity events, marathons, parades, and salutes in honor of our brave soldiers.
If you have the time, show up to one of these events to have fun, show your support for the American military, and help raise funds for local veterans programs. You can make a huge difference by just showing up!
Honor Our Fallen Soldiers
On Memorial Day, take an hour or two out of your day to visit a national or state veteran cemetery. These cemeteries are where military personnel, veterans, and their spouses are buried.
You can honor our fallen soldiers by participating in a moment of silence or reciting a prayer. You can also place stake flags or beautiful red poppies, which symbolize the remembrance of fallen soldiers, on veterans' graves.
Donate to Veterans’ Organizations
If you have some extra money in your budget, consider donating to a trusted veterans’ organization. Organizations such as Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), Home for Our Troops (HFOT), Don't Forget About a Soldier's Best Friend, the USO, and Operation Write Home all have solid reputations and have supported veterans and their families for many years.
Your donation doesn't have to be monetary, either. You can donate clothing, household items, appliances, and more. If you have items in good condition that you don’t want or need, donate them instead of tossing them in the trash.
Fly the Flag
American soldiers risk their lives so they can protect the freedoms afforded to us by the Constitution. The American flag symbolizes everything our nation stands for—freedom, justice, and liberty for all. Proudly waving the flag is an excellent way to show your support for our country and its soldiers.
Just make sure to display it according to the U.S. Flag Code. According to the code, you should fly the American flag at full mast with exceptions for Memorial Day and other days of remembrance, when you should fly it at half-mast to honor our fallen soldiers. At night, illuminate the American flag with outdoor or indoor lights, or take it down until sunrise.
Volunteer at a Veterans’ Hospital
Another unique way to show veterans appreciation is to volunteer at a veterans’ hospital. These hospitals are often understaffed and could use your assistance. Don't worry—you won't be asked to administer medicine, operate the X-ray machines, or perform surgeries.
Most volunteers simply spend time talking to patients and distributing items such as blankets, hygiene kits, box lunches, magazines, and recreational items.
Write a Letter
If you have a friend or family member who's a veteran, why not send them a letter of appreciation this Veterans Day? Even if you don't personally know a veteran, you can still make their day with a thoughtful message.
Find a nearby hospital or military installation and see if they accept letters. You can send a more general letter addressed to every veteran at the facility or choose someone specific to write to. Who knows? You could end up with a new pen pal or even make a lifelong friend. At the very least, you'll make a veteran feel appreciated.
Hang Out With a Veteran
Ever wanted to visit a national park? You'll be happy to hear that all national parks are entrance fee-free on Veterans Day. If you know someone who's a veteran, why not invite them to tour one of the country’s natural wonders with you?
Veterans fight hard to protect this country and all that it stands for. They deserve to see the nation they spend their days protecting in all its glory. Take them to see the waterfalls at Yosemite, the cacti and desert wildlife at Saguaro, the world's largest dormant volcano at Haleakala, or the famous Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone.
Adopt a Soldier
Not all soldiers get the chance to come home for the holidays. Roughly three to five percent of soldiers stay at their installation during the holiday season. The reasons they stay behind vary. Some can't secure leave time. Others live too far away from their installation. And some don't even have families to go back to.
Regardless of a soldier's reason for staying behind, nobody wants to spend the holidays alone. If you live near an installation base, reach out to their MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) office to discuss adopting a soldier (or soldiers) for the holidays.
Adopting a soldier means letting them join you and your family for holiday festivities. On Turkey Day, treat them to a nice meal and sit them down to watch football and the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. For Christmas, buy them some presents and let them participate in your family’s gingerbread house decorating competition. They'll be incredibly grateful to have a home-cooked meal and be surrounded by kind people who treat them like family.
Show Your Patriotism
Memorial Day and Veterans Day are fantastic opportunities to show your support for the military, but they’re only two days out of the entire year. How can you show your support for the military year-round? It's not always easy to find the time and money to donate or volunteer, but that's okay. You can show your support for veterans in a lot of other ways. Sometimes, the smallest gestures matter the most.
You can wear patriotic clothing like patriotic hoodies to show your support for the country veterans work so hard to protect. Spend a lot of time driving around? Why not put a decal that shows your appreciation for the military on the bumper or rear window of your vehicle?
Don't forget about decorating the exterior of your home with flags and patriotic outdoor décor. Put a "Support Our Troops" yard sign in your front yard. Alternatively, you can put up signs that that have the contact info of veterans’ organizations on them. That way, even if you can't personally donate, you can encourage passersby to aid our troops.
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