Veterans Day Thank You Ideas

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Are you looking for meaningful Veterans Day thank you ideas to reach out to the veterans in your community? These 32 ideas come from my personal experience as a veteran and volunteering in my community. You’re sure to find something on this list that will work with your schedule, budget and interests.

funeral caisson at United States of America cemetary

I grew up as the daughter of a Vietnam veteran. I’m a veteran, my brother is a veteran and my husband is an active duty servicemember. In my immediate family, I have seven additional family members that are veterans.

I saw how my father and other Vietnam veterans were treated and am so proud to be able to tell you that veterans are treated much better these days. I can personally tell you how much a simple “Thank you for your service” means to veterans.

I have personally seen those five simple words bring tears to many military veterans, especially Vietnam War veterans. I was told by a Vietnam veteran in 2017 that it was the first time he’d ever been thanked for his service. Let that sink in. It had been 45 to 50 years since he served and he’d never previously been thanked.

I’m often asked for ideas of ways that friends and neighbors can thank veterans of all branches, what is appropriate and what is meaningful. Over the years, my experience as a veteran and volunteering with veteran organizations have created this comprehensive list of ideas.

I’ve included a wide variety of activities so you can find what works best for you, your family and your community.

collage of military members in Air Force and Army uniforms

Is it rude to say, “Happy Veterans Day?”

People often stumble over saying “Happy Veterans Day” and wondering what is appropriate to say. It is polite and appropriate to say “Happy Veterans Day.” Veterans Day is a day to recognize and honor individuals’ military service and sacrifice. While most veterans don’t look to be thanked for their service, it really is appreciated when someone takes the time to say thank you. Some things to be sensitive to when you thank a veteran:

  • Keep it simple and sincere.
  • Make direct eye contact and shake their hand, if appropriate.
  • Don’t use the term “hero.” This word is complicated for many veterans.
  • Keep the focus on the veteran and their service.
  • Don’t talk about your own thoughts about military service, political views or controversial topics.
  • Feel free to ask general, open-ended questions that the veteran can answer politely in as much or as little detail. For example, what was your most memorable assignment?
  • Don’t ask specific or insensitive questions.

If you know the veteran well, you may be able to ask more in-depth questions, but respect the reality that many veterans don’t feel comfortable talking about their service.

Veterans Day Thank You Ideas

Choose an activity from the list below depending on your schedule, your community and your personal preference. The purpose is to sincerely thank a veteran and honor their service with your act.

Get to Know the Veterans in Your Life

Learn who the veterans are in your family, your neighborhood and community. When you know who they are, you can thank and better support them.

According the Pew Research Center, there are approximately 19 million veterans in the US. With about 7% of the population being veterans, you probably already know quite a few and they’re certainly an integral part of your community.

Two primary resources for U.S. veterans are the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Crisis Line.

Thank You Veterans Day Cards and Letters

Take the time to write and send a greeting card or letter to a veteran expressing your heartfelt thanks. Send letters to:

  • The veterans in your life.
  • Your local veterans hospital.
  • Veterans in your community. Contact your local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) or American Legion post and ask if they can help you identify local veterans who would appreciate receiving a card.
  • Your local USO. Contact your local USO and see if they are able to distribute cards.
  • Veterans living in your local retirement community. Contact local retirement centers and ask if they have veterans they would appreciate receiving a card.

Support Veteran Owned Small Businesses

Many veterans become small business owners after the military service. Choose to support veteran-owned small businesses all year long. It can be especially meaningful for the veteran business owner if you visit their business, thank them in person for their service and share with them what you appreciate about their business.

Navy Federal Credit Union‘s mission is to support service members, veterans and their families with their financial goals. Through the years of working with veterans, Navy Federal recognizes the importance of supporting veteran small business owners in addition to thanking them for their service. The veteran small business owners in your community are just as committed to serving your community as they were in serving their country. Thank them by supporting their businesses.

Share a Free Meal with a Veteran

Many restaurants offer veterans a free meal on Veterans Day. Invite a veteran out to lunch or dinner. Your company and conversation is a great way to thank them and make their meal a special event.

collage of 2 patriotic floats in parade

Attend Veterans Day Activities in Your Community

Celebrate the veterans in your community by attending the parades and other Veterans Day events. This is a great way for your entire family to support veterans and celebrate your community.

Participate in Veterans Day activities at your place of employment, local schools and veterans communities.

Volunteer with Organizations that Support Veterans

Look for ways to volunteer and give back to the veterans in your community.

  • Honor Flight – Coordinates transportation for veterans from all over the country to travel to and visit the Washington, D.C. memorials dedicated to honoring those who have served and sacrificed for our country. You can volunteer to accompany a veteran on the trip, to celebrate them when they depart and arrive again at their home or at the D.C. airports.
  • Wreaths Across America – Places wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery and more than 2,500 veterans cemeteries across the country in December to remember, honor and teach about America’s veterans. You can sign up to help lay wreaths at your local cemetery to remember and honor the veterans in your community.
  • Your Local VA Hospital – Contact your local Veterans Administration hospital for volunteer opportunities.
large group of veterans in blue and red shirts at World War II memorial

Share a Story About a Veteran in Your Life

Join Navy Federal’s #GratitudeMission this month and help them celebrate veterans. Post your
picture holding a sign, your veteran’s first name, last initial and branch of service on their
website or on social with #GratitudeMission. Share a story, too. You could be one of their
winners!

Talk with a Veteran About Their Service

Find natural ways to talk with veterans in your life about their service. Many of them have experienced history firsthand. They often have amazingly unique, and often profound, experiences and insights. Encourage them to share what they feel comfortable sharing about their unique experiences.

Consider recording their experiences for the Veterans History Project with the Library of Congress. You can find resources and information on how to collect your veteran’s personal account of lived history and submit it to the project on the Library of Congress website.

Donate to Organizations that Support Veterans

There are many organizations throughout the country providing practical support for veterans and their families. In addition to the organizations below, consider contributing to local programs in your community.

  • Housing
    • Tunnel to Towers – Builds smart homes for catastrophically injured veterans to support their independence. These homes are designed to address the veteran’s unique needs and are provided mortgage-free to the veteran.
    • Homes for Our Troops – Builds and donates custom homes specially adapted to each veteran’s needs at no cost to the veteran.
    • Habitat for Humanity – Assists in providing safe and affordable housing and employment for veterans. There is a significant need for assistance with affordable housing for veterans throughout the country.
  • Service Dogs
    • K9s for Warriors – Provides veterans with a service dog and support during and after the program.
    • Veterans Moving Forward – Located in Northern Virginia and provides service, facility and emotional support dogs to veterans at no cost to the veteran or family.
    • NEADS Service Dogs for Veterans – Provides fully trained services dogs at no cost to veterans with a permeant physical disability or hearing loss. This organization is located in Massachusetts
    • MK9S Service Dogs – Provides services dog trained to meet the veteran’s specific needs. Service dogs are provided free-of-charge to veterans located in Northern Virginia.
    • Pups for Patriots – Rescues shelter dogs and trains them to be service dogs for veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. The service dogs are provided at no cost to the veteran.
    • Patriot Paws – Trains and provides service dogs at no cost to disabled veterans.
  • Veteran Family Support
    • Fisher House – Builds comfort homes near military and veterans hospitals so that families can stay free-of-charge nearby near their service veteran or military member.
    • Gary Sinise Foundation – Provides unique programs to entertain, educate, support, strengthen, and build communities for U. S. veterans and their families.
    • Hope for the Warriors – Aids veterans and their families with comprehensive support programs focused on transition, health and wellness, and making connections to community resources.
    • Operation Second Chance – Supports veterans and their families through building relationships and identifying and supporting immediate needs and interests through hospital visits, retreats, scholarships and more.
    • Hire Heroes USA – Recognizing that transitioning to civilian life can be challenging for veterans and their families, Hire Heroes USA provides personalized service and support to help veterans and military spouses find and keep jobs in the private sector. Also assists companies in hiring and retaining veteran employees.
    • Pat Tillman Foundation – Provides academic scholarships and lifelong leadership development opportunities to veterans and spouses to empower selfless leaders throughout the country.
    • Soldiers’ Angels – Aids veterans and their families identify and access needed community resources and support.
    • Folds of Honor – Provides scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled veterans.

Learn the Difference Between Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Other Holidays

It’s important to understand the different meanings of military and veteran related national holidays. This allows you to respectfully and appropriately honor both veterans and military members on these dates.

  • Memorial Day – This federal holiday honors military members who died in service to their country. This is a solemn day of remembrance for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and is observed on the last Monday in May.
  • Veterans Day – It always falls on November 11th and honors all military veterans who served. It is a federal holiday and is an occasion to show your appreciation to veterans.
  • Armed Forces Day – This national holiday honors all armed services members currently serving and veterans both living and deceased. It is not a federal holiday and is observed on the third Saturday in May.
  • There are many more military and veteran observances, including the service birthdays and dates to honor military spouses and military families.

Expert Tips for Veterans Day Thank You Ideas

  • Choose ideas that resonate with you and your personal values.
  • Look for ideas that work for your entire family and teach your children about the importance of service and helping in your community.
  • Look for ways to connect with individual veterans in your community all year long.
  • Veterans are proud people. Find respectful ways to thank them.

Be sure to pin these Veterans Day thank you ideas so you can find them each year and share them with friends.

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