Today in the United States we celebrate Veterans Day as a national holiday.  This has all the positives and draw backs of any other national holiday.  Most people have no real vested interest in it other than it’s a day off from work and it sucks the banks and post office are closed.  For some it’s a time to remember that someone they know or love is/was a veteran and there will be tons of media and social media proclaiming how much we love vets, need to support vets, are supporting our troops, and look at all we do to honor our vets.  There will be pleas for money, all kinds of talk about the Veteran’s Administration scandal that is still ongoing, and lots of talking heads talking about talk concerning veterans.

For some, for veterans, the talking and the memes and the recognition will be welcome but pretty irrelevant.  Other than for veterans of Viet Nam where recognition is still something they have to fight over and deal with, veterans get a plethora of words.  They get them when they are signing up, when they are here, there, and wherever they serve, and then they get inundated with them when they come home, which is ironic since a large number of these people are doers, not talkers, and they all learn almost immediately that actions speak far louder and truer than any words will.

So today, if on no other day this year, if you’re going to honor a veteran, don’t do it with words.  Do it with actions.  There are a million ways that you can demonstrate how you feel and care about the veterans in the world.  I’ll list some resources for organizations that serve vets but here some general ideas to start with:

Listen – Don’t assume you know what they have been through, what they are going through, or what they need.  Be present, listen actively, and take action as necessary or requested.  Sometimes just listening is the blessing they need, sometimes it’s just having someone with them that doesn’t need them to talk at all.

Look – all of our veterans are proud and they should be.  It’s hard to need help and harder to ask for it and the stigma around veterans asking for help is huge.  So while you are with them and around them, look, really look as what they and their life is like.  If you see need, offer it with respect and respect the response you get. Vets are just like all the rest of us. Sometimes they aren’t ready to receive any more than you are when you’re having a bad time of it.

Make the gesture appropriate – Grand gestures are for the media, usually what is called for is the small things that we all appreciate.  When my father was in elder care he was in a veterans facility and it was amazing to me how much was provided of the little things which make life good.  Younger veterans came several times a week to play poker with the residents.  Quilting groups made lap quilts with the residents names embroidered on them. Groups from the local community came to listen to stories and musicians came to play music from the various eras appropriate to the residents.  It made the place joyful for everyone including the staff and was one of the few times I’ve seen veterans truly honored for not only what they were, but who they are.

So today, consider putting actions to your words.  Find a local VA hospital or elder care facility and volunteer.  Have a talent or a skill?  Think about sharing it with veterans.  Here’s some organizations that can use your hands and your donations and can give you plenty of direction:

The American LegionVFW – Veterans of Foreign Wars
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association