While we should think of Veterans and our older relatives year round, life sometimes gets in the way and we might not be as dutiful as we should. So this Veterans Day is a great opportunity to make up for lost ‘thank yours’ and conversations.
Start with your warm market
Start with family and friends– Most people have dads, moms, uncles, aunts or older family friends who served in the military- put branch rivalries aside. Family history is usually passed down by word of mouth. This is an opportunity to learn your family’s history. Only recently, did I learn my last surviving family member who served in WWII earned three Distinguished Flying Crosses during his WWII experience- yeah, that medal which is just below the Medal of Honor. Six months later, Uncle Ralph passed away and along with him some interesting family history. So Call Now!
The topic or purpose of conversation is not their service- it is just to talk, so they know they are not forgotten. Most of the WWII and Korean War Vets have lost many of their friends, during the War and post War to Father Time – to them the current enemy is loneliness and boredom; feeling forgotten, not only as a Veteran but also as a person. Your older relatives; think WWII and Korean War Vets might not be around next year, so putting off a call might lead to regrets when they are not around next year.
Visit– Face to face is the best way to thank someone or show them you are thinking of them. Your older Vets might be living alone in their home or assisted living facility, so if you have not seen them for a while, be mentally prepared for a shock- they have gotten older and might not remember as well as they used to. They might have physically changed as well- no longer as robust as they once were. Bringing a gift is also a nice touch. Who does not like chocolates? Maybe they are off your diabetic uncle’s menu, but I am sure he cheats once in a while. Bringing your children, if possible, is a great way to share family history and responsibility. You are setting the example for your children and other family members.
As a realist, face to face visits might not be possible due to time and distance constraints. Reality is reality and few people can drive 600 miles for a one hour visit. So there are other ‘courses of action’.
Call– This is not a “dump and run” event, but a meaningful phone call- expect to talk for 20- 30 minutes, which really means listen to them- this conversation is not about you, it is about them. Yes, you might hear stories from them that happened 50 years ago for the 10th time and this might seem boring to you, but to the Veteran- this is an important event, or else they would not be telling you.
Besides, when you get to be the ‘older Vet’- you will want someone to listen to your stories.
Write– Send a card or letter- to younger people, this might sound corny or quaint, but the WWII and Korean War generation grew up with face-to-face, telephone[google: ‘party-line telephone’] and mail as their primary means of communication.
The older Veterans will appreciate a card more than the younger Vets, except during deployments, where each piece of mail was precious.
Social Media– For your personal friends, ‘battle buddies’ and younger Vets- social media will work well.
Email– Personal emails to your closest military friends is an indirect way to say ‘thank you’. Thinking of them is very kind and relating and retelling an incident you both shared, scary or not, is a great way to connect.
For me, I send my key NCOs ‘thank you’ emails every Veterans Day and Memorial Day, thanking them for keeping me alive and out of trouble- not necessarily in that order.
Facebook Posts– Posting generic shout-outs to your Facebook ‘battle buddies’ is acceptable. Facebook also allows you to share photographs of common events and experiences. Facebook gives you the ability to look up and reconnect with old friends. I was able to reconnect with soldiers I served with 35 years ago and we have been able to follow each other progress during the journey we call ‘life’.
Twitter– I think 140 characters I this is too short to show any sort of meaningful appreciation. I recommend not using Twitter unless you are referencing a Facebook Posting.
To all my Veteran friends- thank you!