Jennifer Luna’s third-grade class at St. Eugene sends letters to veterans every year for Veteran’s Day. (Submitted photo)
November is a time for gratitude. Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11) is a time to thank the brave men and women who have served our country in uniform. Unlike Memorial Day, where we remember those who died in the service of our nation, Veteran’s Day is an opportunity for us to show our gratitude to the veterans of all wars still among us.
There are a number of things we can do to help commemorate this important holiday. We owe our veterans an enormous debt of gratitude.
Support Veteran-Owned Businesses
If possible, support veterans in their return to civilian life. Wisconsin is home to more than 55,000 veteran-owned businesses. The Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce has an easy to use and search directory at https://www.wiveteranschamber.org.
Pray for Our Veterans
Prayer is one of the most powerful gifts we have. Lead your family in this short prayer the USCCB has published in honor of Veteran’s Day.
“Lord God, Almighty Father, creator of mankind and author of peace, as we are ever mindful of the cost paid for the liberty we possess, we ask you to bless the members of our armed forces. Give them courage, hope and strength. May they ever experience your firm support, gentle love and compassionate healing. Be their power and protector, leading them from darkness to light. To you be all glory, honor and praise, now and forever. Amen.”
Donate to Local Veterans’ Organizations
Dryhootch has a supportive environment in the form of a coffee shop (locations in Milwaukee and Madison). Here, a veteran (and members of their family) can come enjoy a cup of coffee, some music, art and the camaraderie of others. They learn of the programs available to them – which can aid in their transition home – while enjoying the support of those who have already navigated the same path home. It eases them into the programs or services they need, without the stigma of a “disorder.”
Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative’s mission is “to enable homeless and at-risk veterans to reach and maintain their highest level of independence.”
Paralyzed Veterans of America Wisconsin Chapter “works to improve the quality of life of United States military veterans and others who have spinal cord dysfunction through the use of education, communication, advocacy, legislation, research, and sports and recreation.”
If you would prefer to donate to a national organization, the American Legion, the VFW, The Wounded Warrior Project and Disabled American Veterans are all extremely worthy of your support.
Classroom Service Project: Letters to Veterans
For Jennifer Luna, third-grade teacher at St. Eugene, each Veteran’s Day is a chance for her students to perform an act of kindness by writing letters to veterans. The list comes from the students’ families.
Luna started this project when a high school friend of hers was serving in Iraq in 2004. Her class wrote him letters of encouragement and support and he wrote back and sent pictures, too. It wasn’t for Veteran’s Day initially.
One year, Luna decided to send cards to her two uncles who had served in Vietnam and the Gulf War, and they were so touched that the next year she decided to include the family members of her current class.
The response has been positive.
“We never expected to hear back from them, but many of the veterans are so happy to receive the mail that they write us back a note of gratitude, and some of them share their experiences,” Luna said. “Some even give the students words of wisdom and send us pictures. I save the letters they write us, and then the next year I share those with my class to give meaning to the project in the hopes that they make beautiful cards to share with our veterans. They always do.”
Luna talks to her students ahead of the project to help them understand the sacrifices of the people they are writing to.
“When we talk about the veterans, I always teach them that it is a sacrifice to serve our country and not only did the veteran sacrifice, but also his/her family back at home sacrificed as well,” Luna said. “I hope that my students learn that to live as Jesus did, we need to sacrifice and show love to others. Sending cards to veterans is just one small way to show love to those who served and sacrificed for others.”
If your children do not have a similar project at school, ask friends and family members for names of veterans you can write to as a family. According to the VA, nearly 30 percent of the United States population are veterans, their dependents and survivors, so even if you do not know a veteran personally, the odds are that you know someone who does.