DEAR READERS: We honor those great Americans who have chosen to serve our country through the military. If you look back at history, you will see that from the very beginning of our great nation, people were fighting for freedom. Thousands of lives have been lost in the name of freedom. And many thousands more have been injured in one way or another. Of course, there also are veterans whose lives were spared and who moved on to reap the hard-earned benefits that have been put in place to support them and their families as they build their lives.
To all of our veterans, we owe our gratitude. This is true whether we have believed in the particular war that they were fighting or not. For someone to choose to put him- or herself in harm's way on behalf of our country is an honorable pursuit.
Each year we honor veterans at this time. How will you honor veterans today? What will you do to show your gratitude for their service? The options are vast. Start with your family. Are there any veterans among you? If any are alive, contact them and thank them for their service. Ask them to share stories with you of what they did when they were in service. If you have family members on active duty, reach out to them and make sure they know how much they are loved.
Consider making an offering to a veterans' charity. The Wounded Warrior Project (woundedwarriorproject.org) does remarkable work to support veterans in need. You can donate clothing to veterans using Pick Up Please (pickupplease.org). With this organization, you schedule a pickup and leave your package outside your door on the scheduled day. If you live in an apartment building without a doorman, you may want to use a different type of service. Another organization that collects money to support veterans is the USO (uso.org).
You can also give your time. Visit a veterans' hospital and spend time listening to veterans recount their stories. Contact your local veterans administration and find out about writing letters to military overseas. Make a group effort with friends and family where you go to a veterans' hospital and spread cheer. This can be as simple as going from room to room expressing gratitude to playing games with them to just chatting.
Politically, if you take issue with the policies that are currently in place regarding the military, speak up. Use this time to engage your voice productively. Change occurs when enough people speak up about their concerns. You can write to your members of Congress. You can write to the president of the United States. You can write to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Bottom line -- you do not have to feel powerless. You can make your thoughts known to officials who have the power to invoke change. This is a precious right that Americans have. Let us not be silenced. If we feel strongly about the treatment of veterans or about the status of our involvement in current wars, we must speak our minds. This is the gift and responsibility of freedom.
(Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)