What did this Veteran’s Day hold for you? Many of us (not all, I know), had the day off from work or school, but how did we use it?

It’s difficult for some of us, firmly ensconced in civilian life, to know how to properly and meaningfully thank and recognize the men and women who have served our nation through military service. We can, of course, thank them when we meet. The free coffee and movie tickets are nice. But none of this seems quite equal to the moment, especially when there are veterans going hungry, without proper medical care and without safe housing.

This got me thinking about using the day as a National Day of Service. I do not claim to be original in this. I am certain there are many other proposals floating out there (the call for a mandatory year of national service, be it as a teacher, community organizer, parks worker, in the military or in other field of service is the absolute best idea I’ve seen coming from this round of presidential candidates), but this is how my brain is working on it.

I first envisioned a day when those of us with the day off would sign up for some of the obvious tasks: clearing and planting around soldiers’ graves at the cemetery, taking care of the parkland around memorials and commemorative statues, serving meals at the local VA center, that sort of thing. I still think all those things would be great to do, but perhaps it could be more impactful?

What about creating a registry for veterans who have specific, definable needs? The storm windows put up, the firewood stacked, the house given a thorough once-over before winter. I imagine a database, similar to how schools post when they need a substitute teacher for a particular classroom, where these needs could be entered. Approved volunteers – just like approved substitutes with completed background checks in place – could log in and sign up.

I like that idea a lot, and honestly, I could see that expanding to a general community well-being project for anyone in need throughout the year.

But I digress.

No sooner had my mind conjured up a rosy image of neighbors pitching in to help their local veterans then I was brought back to reality. I know some veterans who would absolutely not want to be on the receiving end of help but who still ought to be honored. This made me wonder about including a section in the database where veterans could alternately post a wish list for local charities they admire. So, for instance, rather than go to a veteran’s home and do a task, a volunteer could instead donate their day to helping at the animal shelter or the food bank in the name of a particular veteran.

Wouldn’t that be great?

I would do this. Every veteran I know has served from a love of country and a desire to ensure a better way of life for us. I would like to honor that through service to that ideal. Who has the tech? Who has the know-how?

I’ll be first in line to offer up my time and labor in honor to those who have given so much.

I thank them.

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