There's nothing wrong with a simple "thank you for your service," but there are actually a few really creative and super meaningful ways to offer a Veterans Day thank you to those who have served our country. From spending quality time with a veteran you know to donating to veterans' non-profits, there are a lot of great options to honor someone who has given their time and service.
Write a Thank-You Note to a Veteran
A verbal thanks is great, but it's even better to have something you can hold in your hand and reread later. You can write the note to a specific veteran you know and totally make their day, or you can send it to a VFW post or military branch near you and ask that it be given to any veteran.
Either way, the note itself doesn't have to be super complicated. Start with telling them you appreciate their service and add a detail or two if you can (such as when or where they served). Then express how their service has impacted your life. For instance, you might talk about how you're thankful you live in such a safe, free country.
Show Up for Them at Parades and Events
Veterans served their country and showed up to help protect it, so it can be a powerful statement to show up for them, too. If there are Veterans Day parades or events happening in your town or area, it's nice to attend. Seeing people appreciating them in person can be an important reminder that citizens value their service.
After the parade or event, it's nice to walk up to people you know and thank them personally. It's not wrong to say "Happy Veterans Day" to someone who served, but looking them in the eye and saying "thank you" can be a lot more meaningful.
Volunteer Your Time at Veterans Organizations
Another way to show up for veterans is by donating your time at an organization that serves them. Check with your state Department of Veterans Affairs to see what opportunities there are close to you or try one of these options:
Donate to Charities That Support Veterans in Need
You can also honor a veteran by donating to a charity that supports past service members in need. There are lots of great options (including the organizations above), but these are a few we especially like:
- Wounded Warrior Project - Honoring and helping support the physical and mental needs of veterans who were wounded, this organization has been around since 2003.
- Vehicles for Veterans - Providing transportation and adapted vehicles for veterans who were disabled or are in need, this organization lets you donate a car or other vehicle.
- K9s for Warriors - This organization helps train service dogs and pairs them with veterans experiencing PTSD and other types of trauma.
- Homes for Troops - Building and remodeling homes for wounded veterans, this organization has a great reputation and an extensive grassroots network.
Talk to Veterans About Their Service
There's actually a lot you can say to a veteran besides "thank you for your service," but one of the very best things you can do is ask questions. Truly connecting and talking about their experience can be incredibly powerful. You're not just saying "thank you" — you're really trying to understand and appreciate their perspective.
These are a few questions you can ask to get that conversation started, whether it's with a veteran in your family, a friend who served, or someone you just met:
- Where did you serve? How long?
- What role did you play in the service? Why did you decide on the branch you did?
- Are you the first person in your family to serve, or did other family members serve, too?
- Are there any moments you remember from your service that you feel like sharing?
Spend Quality Time With a Veteran
In addition to having a great conversation with a veteran about their service, it's just really nice to spend some quality time together doing something the person loves. This might be getting outdoors, playing a sport, grabbing coffee, or going to a movie. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you're doing it together as a shared activity.
If you don't know a veteran personally but want to spend some quality time with someone who served on Veterans Day, call a local care facility or VFW branch to see if there's a veteran who could use some company. You can bring over a book to read or a board game and see if they feel like hanging out for a bit.
Personalize Your Veterans Day Thank-You
Knowing how to honor a veteran is less about what you do and more about showing your appreciation in a personalized and meaningful way. Each veteran is different and may have different reasons for serving, so try to make your thank-you specific and about them. You're already well on your way to making them feel special.