“Thank you for your service.” That sentence reverberates throughout our country more than ever now, it seems. As a parent, it especially makes me proud to watch my children take it upon themselves and, with no cue from me, approach a Veteran to say, “thank you for your service.” So why do I feel that we’re short-changing Veterans by only saying that one sentence?
To me, it never feels like it’s enough. Maybe it’s because I’m not a Veteran. Maybe because I am relieved that my life is better due to that one man or woman’s decision to sign their name and solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and to obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over them, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help them God.
I was reading an article recently about what Veterans want civilians to know. It listed some general thoughts, but one that stood out was “we all made this sacrifice for one reason: to service something more important than ourselves.” That struck a chord with me. I participate in a great deal of volunteer services in my community for that same reason.
To be of service to something more important than myself. Learning to serve others changed the trajectory of my life. But a Veteran’s sacrifice can be final. It’s different. It’s a chance of a Veteran not making it home to his family. It could be a family losing a son, daughter, spouse, parent. At that point, we can no longer thank that Veteran – just honor their memory.
The article also stated that three-fourths of Americans thank Veterans for their service, but only half of those Veterans are comfortable being verbally thanked by a civilian. This led me to consider what the most impactful way might be to thank or honor Veterans. So, I set out in discovery.
I am a mentor for the Pine Lake Preparatory Jr. Excel Club in Mooresville, NC. This club consists of students in grades six through eight, discovering the importance of community service. We have several programs of service, such as youth services, community service, and prevention of child abuse. But the Americanism program of service is by far the students’ favorite. Probably because they are rewarded by a field trip to Richard’s Coffee Shop in Mooresville, NC (a local Veterans hang out) and get out of class.
No, I’m not.
But in all seriousness, these students get to spend quality and unhurried time in this amazing living museum learning about different theaters of service, seeing and touching memorabilia, and chatting with a group of Veterans whose faces light up when they walk in the door. It’s quite wonderful to stand back and look at these two vastly different generations unified for this short time.
This year, after time spent at Richard’s Coffee Shop in Mooresville, NC, the students walked around the block to Liberty Park to eat lunch. I took that time to sit with the students and survey their thoughts on how to give back to Veterans in a meaningful way. Here are some of their great ideas:
“You can easily recognize a Veteran because they all like to wear hats that says what kind of Veteran they are. If you see them at a restaurant, pay for their meal. You can remain anonymous, or you could tell them that you paid for their meal because what they did is important, and it allows me the freedom to eat in this restaurant.” — Taylor, 7th Grade
“You can buy an American flag to put on your house. My neighbor is a Veteran and he told me that he loves seeing flags waving on people’s houses because it makes him feel pride. Or if you know a Veteran that doesn’t have a flag or can’t afford a flag, maybe you can buy it for the Veteran. Or you could even start a fundraiser to buy flags for a lot of Veterans in your community.” — Cannon, 6th Grade
“You can help plan, set up, or participate in your local Memorial Day or Veterans Day events. A lot of towns have special events like parades or lunches or festivals to celebrate and remember Veterans. I bet they could use a lot of help so the Veterans don’t have to do anything and can relax and enjoy the event.” — Anthony, 7th Grade
You can donate to organizations that help Veterans. Many Veterans do not have a lot when they return home from war. They might need help finding a job or finding somewhere to live. And some Veterans need someone to talk to, so they might need counseling to help them. If you donate, that will help them receive those services. — Raegan, 7th Grade
Volunteer for Veterans or places that help Veterans. It can be a lot of fun and very rewarding. You can help in their yard or plant flowers. You can wash their car. You can bring them meals. If a Veteran got hurt and is in a wheelchair, you can help build a ramp so they can get in and out of their house better. — Lea, 8th Grade
Instead of saying, “Thank you for your service, say welcome home.” That is especially important to Vietnam Veterans. — Davidson 7th Grade
The great thing about these students is that they are our future! They recognize that putting their appreciation into action makes a huge difference. Not only for Veterans, but for them as well. I’ve learned that if you begin serving the Veterans in your community, you catch the “service bug,” and you want to continue that path of service for as long as possible. Learning this at an early age is invaluable and creates a lifetime of giving.
One day, some of these students will be serving our country to protect our freedoms. But if some choose another path, they have some incredible ideas of how to show their appreciation to these future Veterans. As our armed service members seem to continuously be at battle, it’s more important than ever to instill these values into children. If we can do that, then our future will be bright.
Karen Fisher, Property Project Manager
You can make a difference in the life of a Veteran by donating to PHH today.