NPOs: Honoring Veterans beyond Veterans’ Day

My husband and I took a stroll one recent evening to enjoy the holiday light display at Clearbrook Park in Clear Brook, Virginia. Theirs is an annual walk-through display, and it was indeed beautiful. Much to our pleasure, they had taken the time to give a shout-out to our troops thanking them for their service as a part of the holiday display.

Most nonprofits take time oWP_20141217_011ut each November to honor those who have served in our armed forces. On Veteran’s Day, roughly 19.6 million U.S. veterans are honored for their sacrifices they made to protect and defend our nation’s freedom. A nonprofit might fill Veteran’s Day with programs, services, or receptions where there are speakers, music, shared stories, refreshments, and perhaps a reading of the names of those lost while serving. Volunteers might visit the local nursing homes, spending some time with the veterans residing there and presenting them with small tokens of appreciation for their service. A nonprofit may observe the day by assembling care packages for active service members.

In past years, one unique observance involved a museum featuring artifacts from local area residents who had served. Featured artifacts included dog tags, a bugle, and even a World War I bayonet sheath. Another had filled its yard with blue stars to honor those who had served.

But honoring our country’s heroes one day a year hardly seems adequate considering all they have unselfishly given. So what can your nonprofit do year-round to let them know how important their sacrifices have been?

Most veterans want you to just talk to them—get to know them and the stories they have to share. Invite them to share their stories with your patrons. If possible, record these legacies and share them beyond your walls through your website and social media outlets.

Embrace the veterans’ families. One way to so is to host a family night out where they can create something together, such as a service-inspired craft piece like a set of braided U.S. flag-themed placemats to take home and use on their own dinner table.

Hosting a family movie or story night is another way to embrace them. You might even consider hosting a lock-in on a Friday night so that the military moms and dads can have a night out while their kids are safe with you. Another idea to consider: look to the armed forces for musicians to provide the musical entertainment for your next big event.

Finally, hire them whenever you can. Veterans struggle to transition into civilian life in many ways, including in the employment arena. There’s even a tax break available, thanks to The Returning Heroes Tax Credit. They are trained and ready to serve, and many are eager to continue doing so.

Whatever you come up with, just never forget the extreme sacrifices these men and women have made for all of us to ensure we continue to enjoy our freedom…