Celebrating and Thanking Veterans

“Every time I’m thanked, it makes every second of military service I gave meaningful,” says Devlon “Jamie” Olson of West Fargo, N.D.

Olson comes from a long line of veterans and says it feels wonderful to be thanked for his service. He served four years in the U.S. Navy as a Petty Officer and was part of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Olson continues to serve and give back to veterans; he is the Commander of West Fargo VFW Post 7564.

Each year, November 11 is set aside to honor and thank our nation’s veterans. This day of celebration, recognized internationally as Remembrance Day, Armed Forces Day, or even Poppy Day, originated in 1918 on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when an armistice was declared between the Allied nations and Germany, effectively ending World War I.

Initially dubbed Armistice Day, it became a holiday in the United States in 1938, and was intended to honor veterans of World War I. In 1954, President Eisenhower changed “Armistice Day” to “Veterans Day”—a holiday dedicated to honoring American veterans of all wars. Regardless of the name, even 95 years after the original armistice, the important purpose of the day remains the same: to celebrate and honor living veterans for their bravery, patriotism, and willingness to serve.

The United States Census Bureau counted nearly 22 million veterans in the United States, including more than 56,000 veterans in North Dakota and nearly 370,000 veterans in Minnesota.

Veterans Day is an annual opportunity to express our deepest thanks and respect to these military men and women.

Dan Job of Bismarck, N.D., a recent retiree after a 40-year career in the Army and National Guard, has received various special forms of gratitude for his service over the years, both on and off Veterans Day.

“There have been many times I’ve been at a restaurant in uniform, both with my family or with other servicemen, and our bill has been paid for. Sometimes it’s been taken care of anonymously, other times strangers will thank me and let me know they paid the bill,” shares Job. “I know there are people who cannot serve. I like to think this is their way of serving, by showing support. It feels good when people recognize our service and sacrifice. Even simple gestures are meaningful.”

Surely, we all know, freedom is never free. Military men and women place themselves in dangerous situations; in foreign, often hostile, lands; and put their personal lives on hold. While the majority of Americans are civilians who have never directly experienced war, we all equally enjoy the comforts and blessings of freedom, security, and safety because of the sacrifices of service men and women. On Veterans Day, we celebrate them!

A national ceremony takes place in Washington, D.C., at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, complete with a bugler playing “Taps” and a flag ceremony. Most community VFW posts, American Legion clubs, and AMVETS host flag-raising ceremonies, parades and other festivities. The Red River Valley Veterans Concert Band has a full day of performances throughout Fargo-Moorhead on November 11. Their schedule can be found at www.rrvvcb.org/schedule.html. Area businesses offer discounts to veterans. Many churches celebrate with special worship services.

Leo Gregoire, Jr., a Navy veteran, and his wife, Mary, have attended Catholic Mass on Veterans Day for the past several years. “We pray for the safety of those who serve and for our country,” says Gregoire. As a Vietnam War vet, Gregoire comes from an era of servicemen who were not initially thanked, or supported, for their service. He says being thanked today means even that much more, and helps make up for not being appreciated then. Gregoire also goes out of his way to thank active military men and women for their service.

Job celebrates Veterans Day by participating in community events, visiting the North Dakota Veteran’s Cemetery in Mandan, and talking about “old times” with other veterans and civilians.

“Veterans Day is a day to spend with family and remember that all gave some and especially some gave all,” reminds Olson. “I wish everyone would participate at a local military service organization, like AMVETS, American Legion, or the VFW.”

There are many ways to thank and support veterans, both on Veterans Day and year-round:

1. Write letters. Send words of encouragement and thanks to deployed military troops. Through organizations like Operation Gratitude (www.operationgratitude.com) and A Million Thanks (www.amillionthanks.org), you can write notes to currently deployed service members, wounded warriors, and veterans of previous conflicts.

2. Send care packages. Food, books, magazines—these are luxuries to those deployed and far from home. Because of increased security and mail restrictions, the Pentagon asks people to purchase authorized, pre-made care packages. Consider sending a care package through Books For Soldiers (www.booksforsoldiers.com), Any Soldier (www.anysoldier.com), or Operation Homefront Hugs (www.homefronthugs.org).

3. Donate. Give materials and/or make monetary donations to causes and organizations whose proceeds support veterans, active military, and their families, such as the Wounded Warrior Project (www.woundedwarriorproject.org), the North Dakota National Guard Foundation, or the North Dakota Veterans Home.

4. Visit. Don’t forget about veterans in hospitals and nursing homes. Give your time. Ask them to tell you their stories, listen, and express your gratitude.

5. Celebrate! Welcome our troops when they return home. Let them know their sacrifice is appreciated. The Fargo American Legion Color Guard welcomes veterans at Hector International Airport, Fargo. Contact the American Legion to learn when celebrations will take place and how you can participate at (701) 237-4013.

6. Volunteer. Do local veterans need rides to and from doctor appointments? Could the VA hospital or Veterans Home use volunteers? Look for ways to give back to those who have given so much. Both the Fargo VA Medical Center and the North Dakota Veterans Home welcome volunteers. Contact the Fargo VA at (701) 239-3700, Ext. 9-3395, or the North Dakota Veterans Home at (701) 683-6548 to learn about specific volunteer opportunities and assignments.

7. Visit memorials. Make a visit to area veteran memorials and honor those who served our country. Check out the Veterans Memorial Bridge on Main Avenue between Fargo and Moorhead, the Veterans Memorial in West Fargo at 9th Street and 17th Avenue, or the All Veterans Centennial Memorial on the state capitol grounds in Bismarck.

8. Decorate. Place flowers and flags on veteran graves. Fly the American flag. Express patriotism while thanking those who serve.

9. Reflect. Even though Veterans Day is primarily a tribute to America’s living veterans, and should be more of a celebration than a somber remembrance, it is always appropriate to observe a moment of silence for those who gave their lives for their country.

10. Say thanks. When you see service men and women in their uniforms, go out of your way to simply say thank you. Be sure to thank their family members for their sacrifices, too.

Most military men and women do not join the service for accolades or recognition. However on this one day, Veterans Day, take a moment to celebrate them and offer your heartfelt thanks.

Bonnie Oelschlager is a freelance writer, marketer, and proud supporter of our nation’s veterans. She lives in Fargo, N.D., with her husband and two boys.


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