When we at Helton Tool & Home sat down to compile a holiday gift guide for the veterans in your life, it quickly became apparent that the wish lists of our United States veterans are just as varied as the wish lists of all American citizens. While all servicemembers may be used to wearing fatigues and eating MREs, or putting their civilian lives on hold and taking orders, the similarities stop there.
One veteran close to the Helton Tool & Home family explained how overwhelmed he is by a simple, “Thank you for your service.” Such words are a welcome expression of gratitude for many military personnel. However, other servicemembers have shared their feelings of awkwardness or discomfort upon hearing those words repeated so often that they may seem to lack authenticity. For that reason, our Veteran’s Gift Guide is instead a list of truly heartfelt “gifts” you can “give” to show your support and gratitude for our veterans this Veteran’s Day weekend, during the holidays, and all year 'round.
Gifts You Can Give to Veterans Directly
- Ask a veteran about their service. Some questions to get you started: What was your job in the military? How long did you serve? What was your favorite moment during your time in the service? Has anyone else in your family served in the military? What made you choose the branch of the military that you chose? (Do not ask a veteran if he or she has killed anyone. If you’re speaking with a combat veteran who is either unwilling to share or speaks openly about the difficult scenarios they have experienced, try to be supportive as possible without being intrusive.)
- Ask a veteran what song reminds them of their time in the service.
- Visit a homebound veteran. Talk with them, thank them, and consider providing a meal.
- Shake a veteran’s hand.
- Write and send a letter to someone currently serving in the military.
- Call a veteran relative, no matter how distant or out of touch you may be.
- Wear your favorite pro-veteran T-shirt. If you don’t have one, consider having one made. (Examples: Free Hugs for Vets; Remember Veterans; Freedom is NOT Free; Thank a Veteran; I Heart Veterans!)
- Make a sincere post on social media acknowledging veterans. Sharing a personal encounter or experience you have had will make your post more meaningful to your friends and servicemembers who may read it.
- Share a picture of a veteran on social media or in person. If a picture is worth a thousand words, hopefully your image will open a dialogue about the importance of recognizing our active servicemembers and veterans.
- Help young children or grandchildren make thank you cards. Display them in the window or post them on the grocery store bulletin board, library board, or some other public place. Teaching children the importance of Veteran’s Day is a wonderful way to keep the tradition of honoring veterans going strong.
- Stand out in front of the VA to greet veterans as they are dropped off. Offer help to older folks getting out of the car. (This activity is a wonderful gesture any day of the year!)
- Buy a homeless veteran a cup of coffee. Or better yet, buy two cups of coffee and give the gift of your company for the 10-20 minutes it takes to drink your beverage.
- Donate time, money, or supplies to local Veteran’s Day drives.
- Show up at your local Veteran’s Day parade and celebrations. Not only will showing up give you the opportunity to act on some of these suggestions, but you shouldn’t underestimate what your smiling face in a crowd of people might do to brighten someone else’s day.
Gifts You Can Give Indirectly
- Say a silent prayer for those who are serving.
- Learn about a current or past war or conflict, as this will make you a better helper and listener. Veterans who served in Vietnam had a vastly different experience from those who served in the World Wars or from active servicemembers today. Being well-read on various wars and conflicts may help you avoid making generalized statements about all veterans.
- Observe a moment of silence with family and friends.
- Read something written by a veteran about their experience.
- Do a project about veterans with young children. One idea is to let them make their own veteran flag and plant it in front of the house. Other ideas can be found here.
- Write in your journal how thankful you are for the service of veterans.
- Take a quiet moment and listen to “Taps.” Think about the implications of this song in your life and the lives of veterans.
- Send an email to your contact list that shares a veteran’s story.
- Teach children the words to patriotic songs like “The Star-Spangled Banner” or “America the Beautiful,” then sing them together and discuss their meaning and significance. If you have an opportunity to perform a patriotic song, that’s even better!
- Pick one or two of these activities and resolve to do them at least once a month, all year.