In the aftermath of two world wars and an ever-more globalized threat of terrorism, November 11 has become a time to reflect on the sacrifices made by veterans in defense of our country. It’s a time to honor those who have served their country bravely. But for many service members—especially those who have experienced war firsthand—this sort of lighthearted commemoration can feel hollow. What does Veterans Day mean to someone who has actually served? For many veterans, the answer is: not much.
A brief history of Veterans Day
Veterans Day is a federal holiday observed annually on November 11. It honors military veterans, especially those who were injured during their service or who lost their lives in combat. The date also marks the end of armed conflict in World War I. The idea for a Veterans Day had been circulating since the end of World War I, when millions of American soldiers had come home after years of battle. At the time, many felt that the country owed a debt of gratitude to the soldiers who had fought so bravely and risked their lives to protect American interests around the world, but had come home to little recognition.
Why does Veterans Day feel hollow?
Veterans Day is supposed to be an opportunity to celebrate the people who have risked everything to defend our country, but for those who have served, the day can carry a heavy feeling of sadness. For some veterans, Veterans Day feels hollow because it’s a reminder of all the things they had to leave behind when they returned to civilian life. The camaraderie of the battlefield, the excitement of facing danger, the feeling of purpose—these are all things that can be difficult to find after leaving the service. For others, Veterans Day is a painful reminder of the horrors of war. Some veterans carry emotional scars from their time in the service, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
What does Veterans Day mean for those who’ve served?
For many veterans, Veterans Day is a time to reflect on the past, and to make sure they are taking care of themselves going forward. It’s a reminder to seek help if you need it, either from friends and family or from professionals who can offer more specialized assistance. It’s a time to remember that you have a lot to offer the world, and that your service is appreciated. It’s a time to remember the service members who did not make it home, and to make sure their sacrifices are not forgotten. It’s a time to honor those who serve today, and to make sure they are getting the support they need.
Take care of yourself
When Veterans Day rolls around, it’s important to remember that you are not just a veteran—you’re also a person. You have feelings and needs that deserve to be recognized, and you need to make sure you are taking care of yourself as you process all that Veterans Day may mean for you. This can be especially important for veterans who are experiencing PTSD. Here are a few tips for taking care of yourself during this time of year: - Take some time to reflect on your service. Maybe you keep a journal, or you write down memories that come to you throughout the day. Maybe you keep a memento that reminds you of the experience (like a uniform or a photo). Or maybe you do something completely different. The important thing is to find a way to remember the service you have given, and to honor the sacrifices you and others have made. - Practice self-care. This means finding time to relax, either by doing something you enjoy or by finding ways to reduce your stress. This can include taking a walk, meditating, or doing yoga. Find ways to stay connected. If you find yourself feeling isolated, try to find ways to stay connected to people. You can do this online or in person, and you can talk to anyone about anything. This can help you feel less isolated, and it can make you feel like you are contributing to a community of people who understand you.
Help others in need
Veterans Day is a reminder that the most important part of honoring the veterans in your life is to make sure their service is not forgotten—and that they are getting the support they need to live with dignity. If you have friends or family members who have served, make sure you are checking in on them. Let them know they are not alone, and that they deserve respect. If you know a veteran who is in need, there are many ways you can help. Here are a few ideas: - Offer your time to a local organization that supports veterans. Many organizations have Veterans Day programs that provide resources to veterans in need. You can also volunteer with a local veteran’s organization. - If you have the financial means, consider donating to one of the many organizations that support veterans. You can find a list of reputable organizations that help veterans on the National Veterans Service website.
Veterans Day, to many veterans, is a time to reflect on the past. It’s a time to remember the service you have given, and to make sure you are taking care of yourself going forward. It’s a time to honor those who serve today and make sure they are getting the support they need to live with dignity. It’s also a time to remember that you are not just a veteran—you’re also a person. You have feelings and needs that deserve to be recognized, and you need to make sure you are taking care of yourself as you process all that Veterans Day may mean for you. When Veterans Day rolls around, it’s important to remember that you are not just a veteran—you’re also a person. You have feelings and needs that deserve to be recognized, and you need to make sure you are taking care of yourself as you process all that Veterans Day may mean for you.