Veterans Day Etiquette

Veterans Day Etiquette

Andrew’s Note:  Today we take a step back from discussing preparedness and feature an article on Veterans Day Etiquette that I wrote several years ago.  Republishing this article has become an annual event here at Prepography in order to honor those who understand that selfless service is required to keep our Nation free.  Veteran’s Day freebies from retailers are nice but a heartfelt word of appreciation or recognition from our fellow citizens certainly means more to us.  Happy Veterans Day!

For the first sixteen years of my military career there was little need for a primer on Veterans Day etiquette as there was little public recognition of the day other than a few restaurants that thanked our Nation’s Veterans with a free meal and a Federal holiday.  All that changed in September 2001… since that time there’s been a renewed gratefulness from the U.S. population towards its current and former military service members.  That gratitude has played out in many ways and one of those ways is by a renewed interest in Veterans Day.

Before we explain Veterans Day etiquette, let’s look at the history of Veterans Day

History of Veterans Day

President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

Unlike Memorial Day which honors our war dead, Veterans Day is a day set aside to honor our living veterans.  The timing of Veterans Day grew out of Armistice Day from World War I.  Although the peace treaty wasn’t signed until June 28th 1919 the armistice went into effect the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (1918).  This armistice was the end of the over-optimistically named ‘war to end all wars.’  President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the  first “Veterans Day Proclamation”  in 1954 at the urging of Congress to officially expand the observance of Armistice Day into Veterans Day.  You can read more about the history of Veterans Day at History of Veterans Day – Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Veterans Day Etiquette

Here’s one old soldier’s guide to Veteran’s Day etiquette based primarily on my family’s traditions, as well as my own feelings and experiences.

  1. Fly the colors.  This is a day for honoring service so the flag is NOT flown at half mast.
  1. Acknowledge the service of veterans you encounter on veterans day.  A firm handshake, warm smile and “thank you for your service” is more than adequate.
  1. Call veterans who are relatives and very close friends.  I usually throw a “Happy Veterans Day” out, and inevitably get a “right back at you” in return.
  1. The last few years I’ve also begun receiving a lot of Veterans Day messages by e-mail.  E-mail sentiments are also welcome recognitions of a veteran’s service and sacrifice.
  1. I once received a handmade card from a client for Veterans Day.  She was obviously a scrapbooker and had put the talents she’d developed to beautiful and artistic use.  She hand delivered the card to my office.  The card sat on the bookshelf in my office for many years along with other cherished mementos.
  1. Last but not least, if you see a veteran out at a restaurant or bar…buy him or her a round…you don’t even have to let him/her know it was you if you’re shy.

Veterans enjoy free meals, and a good deal like everyone else, but an expression of appreciation means so much more to most of us.  If you appreciate your freedom, consider expressing that appreciation to those that made it possible.

Final Note

I was sitting next to a friend a few years back during a salute to veterans at a conference we were attending.  The musical tribute was a medley of the U.S. military service songs and the musical director asked the veterans in the audience to stand when their service’s song was played.  This friend, who had enlisted and served for six years in the National Guard during peacetime turned to me and asked me if he was a veteran.  Make no mistake folks, if you served honorably in the Active or Reserve U.S. military  forces (yes the National Guard is part of our Reserve Force) you are a veteran.  We honor service, not just wartime service because those who serve during peace-time are our strongest deterrent to war.

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