This Veteran’s Day, on Nov. 12, marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war. In Huntsville, we celebrate our veterans with 10+ days of events and activities to honor our service members. The Mayor and I are always honored to be a part of these recognitions, and we wish everyone had the opportunity to experience the pride and gratitude we feel in spending time with our veterans.
Which got me to thinking. Since no city loves their veterans more than Huntsville, I wanted to share some ideas on ways the community can participate in Veterans Day, at home, school, and work. Best of all, these activities can occur year round!
1. Support a veteran-owned business, veteran support organization, or visit a veterans’ hospital
Our community has many seasoned veterans that have invested in our economy and created jobs. The most comprehensive listing of Veteran-owned businesses is found on the Veteran Owned Business website.
Visit the Floyd E. “Tut” Fann State Veterans Home on Meridian to thank local veterans for their service. Another place to go is the Huntsville VA Clinic, located by the Clearview Cancer Institute off of Holmes Avenue. I was recently out of town with a retired general and his wife, and he was saying how wonderful the clinic is. And he’s not the only one! I hear grand things about that facility, and I’m proud that Huntsville has two places that care for our seasoned Veterans.
2. Take your family to the Veterans Day Parade
One of the things I look forward to every year is the parade. I think we have one of the largest Veterans Day Parades in the state; the participation and the number of people that come out is staggering. Tommy is usually in the parade and I sit on the sidelines and wave my flag. I love to see our community getting together to celebrate and honor our heros.
3. Support a Veteran-owned business or Veteran organizations
The most comprehensive listing of Veteran-owned businesses I have found is on the Veteran Owned Businesses website. Tommy and I try to support local Veteran-owned businesses as much as we can. They create jobs and invest in our economy here in Huntsville.
One of the outstanding organizations that serve Huntsville Veterans is Still Serving Veterans Particularly during this time of the year, the Veteran Community Resource Connection (VRC) program Counselor is working tirelessly to connect Veterans with core life needs such as housing, food, power assistance, and transportation needs with trusted community partners.
Other organizations that support Veterans include the Veterans of North Alabama Services Assistance Program (VONASAP) that helps homeless Veterans get settled when they receive an apartment, members of the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organization Coalition (NAVOC), First Stop, and the United Way’s Priority Veterans.
5. Encourage your child’s teacher to develop a Veterans Day lesson plan.
In my classroom, we would read about Veteran’s Day and discuss why we honor it. In the United States, we make our own choices, and that’s a luxury many people don’t have. That freedom is what our military protects for us. Scholastic Books is a great resource, and I love their lesson plan for Veterans Day.
6. Invite a veteran — One of the most moving things we can do for Veterans is to have a child invite a service member to a school Veterans Day program. The program does not have to be ornate or complicated, but there is nothing like seeing a group of children singing patriotic music and waving flags to remind the Veteran why the sacrifice is worth it. To see grass-root, simple patriotism has a profound effect on all of the participants.
Almost any Veterans organization will be happy to provide a speaker for a school or work function. Still Serving Veterans can help, as can the Disabled American Veterans,American Legion,Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other Veteran service organizations.
7. Take time out of the day to acknowledge veterans in your workplace.
The first step is to know who is a Veteran and in what service they served. Simply having that service recognized when appropriate in introductions, etc., is gratifying for the service member. Additionally, each military service celebrates its founding birthday and having someone recognize that day is particularly thoughtful.
8. Express thanks. When I see people dressed in uniform I always thank them for service. I remember when the drafts were going on and military service wasn’t a choice. It is a very small percentage of our population that affords a large percentage of our population to remain free. Also, think beyond the Veteran to show support for military families and caregivers. As often as not, they have paid almost as great of a price for military service as has the service member.
There are a couple things that people can do to show their genuine support for Veterans. First, rather than asking if a person is a Veteran, ask if they have served in the military. All too often men and women who are or have served in the National Guard or Reserves do not consider themselves Veterans. If a person has worn the clothe of our nation, they deserve our thanks.
9. Be a good listener. Be compassionate and supportive of Veterans who may be struggling with their transition. It is challenging to figure out your new identity, purpose, and tribe. Being willing to listen, to be welcoming, to be generous with introductions and social connections, and (if asked) to offer advice are all things that help Veterans and their families establish a sense of community and belonging.
It’s pretty amazing what our community does to show appreciation and dedication to our Veterans. I’m really proud of how our community supports Veterans and makes Huntsville a great place for them to call home.