Originally celebrated as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I, Nov. 11 became Veterans Day in the U.S. in 1954 to recognize all who have served during times of war and peace. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that there are 19.2 million veterans living in America today.
Here are eight ways to share your time, resources and gratitude with our veterans.
Make a donation
Veterans of all ages and circumstances can benefit from a range of support programs. Many nonprofit organizations, including United Service Organizations (USO) and the Wounded Warrior Project, offer extensive services to the veteran community. Support the work that they do with an individual donation or host a local fundraiser to bring your community together around a worthy cause. If you're interested in supporting a specific project, consider organizations like Building Homes for Heroes, which gifts mortgage-free homes to vets, or the Honor Flight Network, which takes vets to see the national memorials honoring their service.
Help a vet find employment
Nonprofits like Hire Heroes assist veterans in finding rewarding civilian careers after years of military service. Donate your time and skills to provide job counseling, mock interviews or professional headshots — or hire a veteran if you can.
Train or sponsor a service dog
Service dogs offer mental health support and companionship for veterans suffering from PTSD. Socialize a service dog in-training as a "weekend puppy raiser" through an organization like Patriot PAWS or sponsor the training process with a donation to a nonprofit like Puppies Behind Bars.
Connect homeless vets with essential resources
Hosted by the VA, local Stand Downs are one- to three-day events that provide homeless veterans with clothing, food, health screenings, VA Social Security benefits counseling and referrals to other support services. Visit the VA's website to find an upcoming Stand Down in your area and see how you can participate.
Document a veteran's story
The Library of Congress' Veterans History Project "collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war." Participate by contributing an oral history or video interview with a veteran in your life. You can also share photos, journal entries, sketches, letters and other first-hand accounts.
Send a letter or care package
Through an organization such as Operation Gratitude, you can send a veteran a heartfelt, handwritten message of thanks. Bring your family or community together for a card-writing session on Veterans Day to show your gratitude for those who have served. Find a local care package collection drive where you can donate treats and essentials.
Assist a local veteran
The Disabled American Veterans' (DAV) Local Veteran Assistance Program makes it easy for volunteers and vets to connect. Vets often request home maintenance, yard work, meals and companionship; search your area to see how you can help. You can also join the DAV Transportation Network and drive vets to doctors' appointments. Or, contact your local VA hospital to find out about volunteer opportunities there.
Say "thank you"
This Veterans Day, tell a vet how much you appreciate their service. If there's a veteran in your life, or if you see someone who identifies themselves as a veteran, don't be afraid to approach them to say "thank you." Pay it forward and treat someone who served to a meal or a coffee if you can, but remember that a simple smile and a word of gratitude can go a long way.