I grew up in the 70's, back in the days of tie-dye and hemp clothing and peace signs. It's funny to me now that so many of those things have come back into vogue. I was really too young to be a "hippie", but I did dress the part. I never attended a "sit-in" or a peace rally but I vehemently opposed the idea of war, in all of its forms. I held onto that belief throughout my life ... up until September 11, 2001.
That date, of course, changed all of us. I still can't bring myself to say that I think war is the answer to anything, but I do understand the necessity of it now. And I do have a whole new level of respect, appreciation and admiration for the men and women who serve to protect our country, as well as the families who love them.
One very positive change that has occurred in our country since my childhood is the respect that we show our military. When soldiers returned from Vietnam, they were sometimes met with icy stares, verbal abuse and even spit upon. Now, it is not unusual to see members of the military receiving applause or pats on the back as they walk through a crowded airport. I know that I always feel a tremendous rush of feelings when I see a man or woman in uniform. It's a combination of respect and admiration mixed with a gut-wrenching awareness of how I would feel if that was my son or daughter, brother or friend.
Whether it is Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, or no special day at all, here are some suggested ways to Thank a Vet:
1) Say thank you - If you know a veteran, or the family of a veteran, give them a call or send an email and tell them that you appreciate what they have done, or are doing, for our country.
2) Listen- If they want to talk about their service, let them. I don't care if you have heard your father's or grandfather's war stories before. Ask them to tell you about them again. And listen this time!
3) Send some love - Even if you don't know any veterans, personally, it is still easy to express your thanks. Get out your phone book and find the closet VA hospital or nursing home and send a big, patriotic bouquet of flowers or a colorful collection of cookies. Add a note explaining that they are for the resident veterans, with your heartfelt thanks for their service.
4) Attend a parade - If there is a parade close by, go to it. Take your kids, buy them some flags to wave, and really hoot and holler at the members of the military, young and old, who are marching in the parade.
5) Visit a Veterans Day Services to pay your respects - In you can't find a parade, there are plenty of memorials that you can visit to pay your respects.
6) Fly a flag - Flying the American Flag is a great way to show pride and respect for our country. If you don't have a flagpole, you can purchase small brackets that easily fit on the front of your home or your mailbox.
7) Give time or money to veteran's groups - It's a tough year for everyone and you may not be able to afford to make cash donations to as many charities as you would like. But many groups will benefit from your time as much as they would from your cash donations. One of our favorite organizations is Home for Our Troops (HFOT), a non-profit organization that builds specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans. HFOT is currently looking for volunteers to work on several projects in Maryland and Virginia.
8 ) Plant a tree in memory of a veteran - Planting a tree is always a great way to honor someone and will give you a permanent place to return to year after year to spend time and appreciate your freedom.
By the way, if you are wondering what the dedication and sacrifices of our veterans has to do with a gardening blog, the answer is "everything".
Gardeners might enjoy reading: A Hero and His Habitat : 20 Days in the Garden