“If I have seen further, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton
For many years, the first thing I would do on November 11th would be to call my dad, tell him that I love him, and thank him for his service to the country. And then the very next thing would be to connect with each of my grandfathers and thank them for their sacrifices so that we may be free. Often, these amazing men in my life would share stories of their time in the Army and talk about the relationships between the friends and brothers who served with them in World War II, Vietnam, and here in the States.
Veterans Day is a celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" (Read more on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
While my dad and both my grandfathers have passed, my first thought, every November 11th is of their service and how I can give back to the community of veterans, wounded warriors, and active duty military who are willing to give of themselves in the service of others.
It is appropriate this year, as our association has a focus on Wellness Wednesdays, that November 11th falls on a Wednesday. As the vice president of professional development, one of my roles is to support our leaders in giving back to the Association. Today, I’d like to ask you to give back to your community and to the veterans who you may not even know have served.
While there are many worthy programs across the country, I am going to highlight a couple of ways that you can give back both locally and nationally. And a few that take no money at all… just your time and a little gratitude.
- Wear a red poppy or yellow ribbon to show support for veterans and active duty service members.
- Visit a veterans’ hospital. Chatting with elderly or injured veterans is a great way to brighten their day, plus you’re likely to hear some highly fascinating stories about their time in the service.
- Invite a veteran to your campus to talk with current students or better yet see if a student veteran would be willing to talk about their time in the service — otherwise a parent, grandparent or faculty member. Don’t know any veterans to invite? Contact your local VA; their Public Affairs Officer will likely be able to identify a good guest speaker. There are many veterans who work at VA facilities and would be happy to speak to students.
- Take time out of the day to acknowledge veterans at your institution. Consider an office-wide coffee break featuring these remembrance poppy cookies or a yellow ribbon cake. You just need your favorite cake mix, yellow frosting and a ribbon pan.
- Find an event in your community! Want to find a local Veterans Day event? Many communities hold parades and vigils. Contact your local VA for more information.
- Do you have any leftover candy from Halloween? If you do, there is a great organization called Operation Gratitude where you can send your leftover candy, write a letter to a veteran, wounded warrior, active duty, or new recruit! You need to send your candy by November 15th… but if you’ve already given away your candy or eaten it yourself, this non-profit provides a year-long way for you to send a care package, some toothpaste and toothbrushes, or just a note of thanks to our servicepersons both at home and abroad.
Finally, I’d like to share with you one of my most favorite and personal ways that I give thanks to our veterans. As a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recognized Vietnam veteran, my dad is buried in Arlington National Cemetery and I have been donating wreaths and my time for the last three Decembers. Each year, there is a wonderful program called “Wreaths Across America” which asks individuals, corporations, and communities to purchase wreaths that will be placed a the graves of those who have served in military cemeteries in a community near you.
You and your colleagues can purchase a wreath that will be placed at a gravesite this fall for only $15 or join together with your division or institution to purchase a larger sponsorship of wreaths. Or, you can spend time volunteering during National Wreaths Across America day on December 12th in a military cemetery near you or visit Arlington and join me for a touching ceremony and a few hours of volunteering. Just visit Wreaths Across America website to find out more about how you can volunteer with this wonderful organization.
On today’s NASPA Wellness Wednesday and the 97th recognition of Veterans Day, please share on our blog ways that you and your community recognize veterans in your community!
The most important thing I would ask of you to do today, and every day, is thank a veteran. Whenever you see someone in uniform or wearing something that says they served, extend a simple word of gratitude or small act of kindness to show how much their service means to you. You will make that person’s day. We are so fortunate to have stood on the shoulders of those who fought to keep us safe, who sacrificed much, including their lives, for our freedom. Please help me thank our veterans today and every day.