Each year, November 11 marks a day when military men and women who honorably served or are serving the United States of America receive gratitude for their service from the American people. As you are reading this, take a moment to breathe in the fresh air of freedom. That breath of freedom was bought with a price — the service of American men and women in the United States military. The American men and women who swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign or domestic.
Veterans Day exists for the American people to say “thank you” to active, reserve and honorably discharged military men and women who are still alive. (Memorial Day, on the other hand, is reserved for commemorating those who gave the ultimate sacrifice—their final breath—to protect and defend our country.) Veterans Day should be recognized by all Americans including faithful followers of Jesus Christ. After all, these men and women support and defend our First Amendment right to freely exercise our faith. Therefore, all Americans in general — and Christians in particular — can use this opportunity to honor the men and women who served or are serving in the armed forces.
As a former Marine Officer, here are three ways you can honor veterans.
1. Literally say, “Thank you.”
It may not seem like much, but by saying “thank you” you observe Veterans Day the way it was originally intended. On Veterans Day, you may see veterans wearing some type of military clothing or hat. Walk up to them. Look them in the eye. Give them a firm hand shake. Then, sincerely say, “Thank you.” That one small, simple, brief gesture means everything to those who are serving or have served in the United States military.
I would also encourage you to go out of your way to thank veterans who served during the Vietnam War every time you see them throughout the year. These veterans did not receive the same applause and appreciation that many other veterans received when we came home from combat deployments. To put it another way, Vietnam veterans did not hear “thank you,” enough, but we can change that starting today.
Take a moment to say and show veterans you are thankful for their service and sacrifice.
2. Recognize their families.
On Veterans Day we give thanks to the men and women who put on the uniforms and laced up combat boots. Yet families are the backbone of the military. Families put in countless hours and endure all range of emotions while their loved one serves the United States of America.
Recognize the sacrifices that military families endure, and show them your appreciation by saying, “Thank you for your service, too.” That type of gratitude to the families will penetrate the hearts of the husbands, wives, children, mothers and fathers who had to make extreme sacrifices as their loved one served in the military. Take time to appreciate and recognize families this Veterans Day.
3. Give them a token of your appreciation.
The military loves tokens. Military officers and high ranking enlisted officers give out coins as tokens to Marines, seamen, soldiers and airmen for some exemplary service performed. This means worlds to young military men and women because they are given something as an appreciation for what they have accomplished.
Consider items that you might give to the veterans you will see on Saturday. For example, perhaps you could give any veteran a small gift or a card that says, “Thank you for your service,” to show your appreciation to them. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but give them a token of your gratitude from your heart. That will honor any and all veterans this Veterans Day.
A Final Plea
These are three easy ways you can show appreciation this Veterans Day. Of course, there are many other ways you can show your appreciation to the many veterans you will see this Saturday. But many veterans served their country not to receive acknowledgement; they served their country because they believed in their duty to defend and protect the United States of America. They believed in this country, and many served knowing they could pay the ultimate sacrifice in their service. With this in mind, take a moment this Saturday as a Christian to say and show them you are thankful for their service and sacrifice.
If you prefer not to say, “thank you,” you have the freedom to do so. But can I make one request? Please don’t belittle or berate veterans on Veterans Day. Some people may not approve of the military, or they may have animosity towards those who serve. But the proper response this Saturday should be to remember that the freedoms you enjoy as an American were paid with a price. That price was the service of men and women in the armed forces. So let them have their day, and go about yours with all the freedoms they fought for you on your behalf in silence.
So, to all the veterans, active duty military, reservists, and military families, I would like to say, “Thank you for your service to the American people and the United States of America.” To my fellow Marines, thank you for your service, and happy 242nd birthday. Semper Fidelis.
 MarineParents com Inc, “Oath of Enlistment,” MarineParents.Com®, n.d., http://MarineParents.com/marinecorps/mc-oath.asp.
 Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, “Veterans Day Frequently Asked Questions – Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs,” questions and answer, n.d., https://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetday_faq.asp.
 “U.S. Senate: Constitution of the United States,” n.d., https://www.senate.gov/civics/constitution_item/constitution.htm#amendments.
Image Credit: Spencer Imbrock / Unsplash