Fall is officially upon us. The weather is cooler, the clothing is warmer, and school is back in full swing. And with the beginning of fall comes a marathon of celebrations, family traditions, and holidays. Maybe some of you have already booked your vacations to escape the cold weather to come. The extremely organized sisters among us likely have started (or even completed) their holiday shopping. For me, the beginning of fall means making Halloween costumes. But whatever you are currently preparing for, it is imperative that we stop and recognize an often-overlooked day off that falls between the pumpkin picking and present wrapping: Veterans Day.
Veterans Day, in the U.S., originated as a way to reflect upon the heroism of those who died in service to country and was originally known as Armistice Day. November 11th was chosen to commemorate the anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. However, in 1954, the holiday was changed to “Veterans Day” in order to recognize and celebrate all veterans having served in all wars. For our Canadian sisters, the origins are the same for Remembrance (or Poppy) Day which is also celebrated on November 11th.
Perhaps it is the Army brat inside me (I’m the proud daughter of Staff Sergeant Johnny Horton, a career service member) but celebrating veterans each November 11th is an annual tradition we look forward to in my household. The amount of sacrifice service members voluntarily make on our behalf is no small task and to me is the ultimate form of service. And, its more than the tenuous deployments and regimented routines we often think of. It’s the missed birthdays and the empty seat at the dinner table. It’s learning how to drive in a new city every two years and the times you miss the start of a movie off-post because the front gate is closed for the fifth drill this week. It’s the long-term guilt of up-rooting your kids and short-term lack of control over what you wear, when you sleep, and how long your work day will be. It’s the struggle and adjustment that can come with reentering civilian life and forgetting you can wear your hair however you want now. It’s the fear of mortality, the hurrying to wait, and in some cases dealing with lifelong traumas or injuries. Its burying your closest comrades and sometimes it’s the ultimate sacrifice.
The men and women who commit themselves to this all-encompassing type of service deserve our sincerest gratitude, and Veterans Day is the perfect opportunity to stop and be thankful for their sacrifice.
Regardless of how you choose to support the veterans in your life, I challenge you to take a moment to extend gratitude this Veterans Day. Here are some of the ways my family celebrates:
- Attend a Veteran’s Day Parade – Attending a parade is a great way to visibly pay tribute to those who serve. For those of us with small people at home, parades can be both an educational opportunity as well as a fun family tradition.
- Ask someone about their service and thank them – We all likely have a veteran within our immediate circle. Pick up the phone or stop by for a visit and ask about their experience. Sometimes the best thank you we can give is our listening ear.
- Wear a red poppy – The American Legion Auxiliary distributes red crepe paper poppies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day nationwide. The poppies are all handmade by veterans as part of their therapeutic rehabilitation. Contact your local American Legion office to find out where you can get one in your community.
- Write to deployed service members – It is all too easy to forget with the busyness of life that there are currently thousands of men and women worldwide deployed and stationed overseas and away from their families and loved ones. Take a moment to write to them with encouraging words and gratitude.
- Visit a VA Hospital or volunteer with a veterans-focused mission – Volunteering in general is often an incredibly rewarding experience, but when the recipient of service is a veteran – you’ll be in for a heartwarming day. Learn more about the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project if you plan on meeting with veterans in person.
- Donate – Can’t find the time? There are numerous organizations assisting our veterans, offering services ranging from rehabilitating those coming home wounded, to recognizing their service with honor flights. Find a list here.
For Alumnae Chapters
While there are many ways our local ACs can integrate supporting veterans into their annual activities, one of my favorites is Sisters for Soldiers. This program, largely used by collegiate chapters, is a great way to foster relationships and collaboration through service with area chapters. If you don’t have a collegiate chapter nearby, good news! You can still participate. Check out Fulfilling the Promise for more information on this self-contained program that can be used to commemorate Veterans Day or any day.
About Sisters for Soldiers
Spearheaded by a Delta Delta Chapter member at Auburn University, “Sisters for Soldiers” debuted in 2007. Inspired by a young woman’s desire to serve as a sister to soldiers stationed in Iraq, the program allows members to make care packages for overseas troops striving to help bring a sense of joy to each soldier who is constantly preoccupied with the emotions associated with war. While including basic necessities, sisters are encouraged to personalize their boxes with handheld games, golf balls, cards, puzzles, etc. Alpha Omicron Pi Fraternity launched the “Sisters for Soldiers” campaign in 2011 in partnership with Soldiers’ Angels. Founded in 2003, Soldiers’ Angels is a volunteer based nonprofit organization that provides aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and their families.
Leah Horton is an alumna of Tau Gamma (Eastern Washington U) and a member of the Education Committee. Pictured above are members from AOII’s Beta Zeta chapter (Kennesaw State U).