I don’t know how old I was…old enough to read…old enough to comprehend…but still young enough that I was completely naive about war.

Yes, I knew soldiers were killed, loved ones never came home. I understood on an intellectual level. But as a child, it was something I hadn’t quite comprehended, I never fully understood…until I saw this letter.

While I can’t remember how old I was, the letter was never forgotten. It was etched into my memory as a monument for the moment I was no longer naive about what war, sacrifice, honor, and service really meant.

I had pulled out a photo album from my Grandmother’s closet and distinctly remember sitting on the floor with my little legs being crushed under the weight of pages of ancestral photographs. I flipped through each pages having no idea who anyone was, but enjoying looking at the ‘old-time’ photos knowing that I was somehow related to them.

THE LETTER

As I flipped through the album I came across a letter. It looked important. It MUST be important if it had been kept. I pulled the photo album closer to my face and began to read.
katherine-keller-veterans-day

It was my Grandmother’s brother who had passed away.  He was aboard the USS Mount Hood when it exploded in the Pacific on November 10, 1944. They searched for any surviving sailors for 4 months before declaring them all deceased. Losing her brother during the war was a subject my Grandmother had difficulty talking about for the rest of her life.

katherine-keller-veterans-day-jamesI have had many family members serve in the military: Grandfathers, uncles, cousins, my brother. So Veterans Day holds a special place in my heart. The letter that I read as a child, sitting on my Grandmother’s floor, serves as a reminder of what this day is REALLY about. Not mattress sales, not an extra day off from work. But real people and families who have made real sacrifices. Families who received letters like this one.

Today I want to share some creative ways that you can help out our veterans, have an impact on their lives, and thank them for sacrificing so that we can have the freedoms we enjoy.

HOW TO THANK A VETERAN – ADULTS

1.Write a check. Veterans organizations can always use some extra cash for programs that help wounded warriors, assist current servicemembers who are having financial difficulties and give job counseling to people leaving the military. You can also research an organization on your own or ask a veteran for their input.

2. Donate your frequent-flyer miles. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this one. If you collect frequent-flyer miles, you can donate them. Fisher House Foundation’s Hero Miles Program, helps family members be close to the bedsides of loved ones who were injured.

3. Share your time. Instead of just giving cash, share your expertise and talents to a veterans group. I have seen every trade from lawyers to photographers to flipping pancakes at a pancake breakfast fundraiser who have been able to volunteer their time and service. Construction worker? You can even help build houses for wounded veterans.

4. Hire a veteran. Whether temporary or full time a great place to start is PsychArmor, a nonprofit organization which provides top-class, free webinars on how to find, hire, train and retain veterans and military spouses. Join their 1–5–15 Campaign!

HOW TO THANK A VETERAN – KIDS

1. Teach them to say “Thank You.” Start simple. I remember my daughter being 5 years old and seeing a man in uniform. She came over to me and whispered in my ear, “I think I should go over and thank him but I’m really nervous.” So together we walked over and shook his hand. Where did she learn that? From watching her parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who do it. It’s a culture in our home. One I am proud of.

2. Make care packages for deployed troops. This is a great family project to work on together during the holidays. Visit the sites AnySoldier.com  or SoldiersAngels.org to discover how and where to send your special items.

3. Visit a Veteran’s hospital or Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) post.  It is hard to explain how children can brighten up the day for some of these men and women. Kids can make crafts or help bake treats to bring. Check out 100+ Patriotic Crafts and Activities from Kids Activities Blog or for or patriotic dessert inspiration, check out 60+ Patriotic Desserts from Something Swanky.

4. Volunteer. Volunteering doesn’t have to be something as labor intensive as helping to build a house. Just simply making and delivering a home-cooked meal or helping out with yard work for a homebound vet is greatly appreciated. If you don’t  know of any veterans in your area, check out Fisher House, an organization dedicated to helping military families of soldiers in the field. Veterans do appreciate knowing their families are well taken care of when they are far from home.

ANY MORE?

Any organizations or ideas that I may have missed? I would love it if you share them in the comments below.