100 Ways to Honor a Veteran

Today is Veterans Day and while we should all thank our soldiers for their service every day, today is a great day to think creatively about how to give back to those who have served and protected our country.  There are millions of small ways to show gratitude towards America’s service men and women, but here are 100 ways you can honor a Veteran today:

1)  Say “thank you.”  It’s such a small, simple gesture that is completely disproportionate to the sacrifice soldiers make for us, but they really do appreciate it.

2)  When you see a soldier or veteran eating at a restaurant, discretely tell the waiter/waitress that you’d like to pick up the tab for them.

3) Ask your company to name Veterans Day an official company holiday.  A 2010 poll by SHRM found that only 21% of companies planned to observe the holiday this year.

4)  Donate to the USO.

5)  Volunteer at a local USO Chapter.

6)  Don’t forget to acknowledge the soldiers who served our country but didn’t fight in a foreign war.  For instance, though my father didn’t fight in Vietnam, I’m very proud that he served in the National Guard during that time.  He provided disaster relief support, kept peace at protests, and even guarded President Harry S. Truman’s grave when he was laid to rest.  Soldiers who do not fight in a foreign war are often given less attention, but are just as worthy of our praise and appreciation.

7)  Send a “Cheer” postcard to military families and Cheerios will donate $1 to the USO for each postcard they receive.  Learn more here.

8)  Learn about how to support military families emotionally.  When a spouse is deployed, it’s so hard to know what to say or to do help their family.  Here’s a great article with 10 Things to Know About Military Wives.

9)  Place flowers/flags on the graves of veterans.

10)  Proudly display your American flag.

11)  Help a homeless veteran through VA services.

12)  Order a pizza.  On 11/11/11 for every order placed, Papa John’s will donate $1 to the USO.

13)  Visit a local retirement home and chat with some elderly veterans who will share their stories.

14)  Volunteer at a VA Hospital.

15)  Send a care package through Operation Gratitude.

16)  Donate a stuffed animal so that Operation Gratitude can create a “Battalion Buddy” to children of deployed soldiers.

17)  Send your leftover Halloween candy to soldiers.

18)  When you see a soldier boarding your fully booked flight, offer them your window or aisle seat.

19)  Teach your children about Veterans Day and how thankful we should be for the service of our soldiers.

20)  Did you know that There are more than 1.4 million active duty military members supported by more than 3.6 million family members, and 70 percent of married active duty military members have children.   Get involved with one of these great military family support charities.

21)  If you own a business, offer a special Veteran’s Day discount.

22)  Display a yellow ribbon on your clothes, car, or around a tree.

23)  Volunteer for a service project through The Mission Continues.

24)  If you are a manager or work in HR, hire a veteran.

25)  Pledge your service through “Joining Forces.

26)  Read a book or watch a documentary about the lives of soldiers.

27)  Donate to The Mission Continues.

28)  Help deployed soldiers stay connected with their children through the power of reading.  Donate to the USO’s United Through Reading program so that soldiers can record themselves reading a book and send the video to their children.

29)  Support Operation Homefront

30)  Take a veteran to lunch.  Several restaurants offer discounts to honor American heroes.

31)  Learn about the veterans in your family.  Do you know if anyone in your family served in the military?

32)  Send a “thank you” note.  http://www.amillionthanks.org/send-letter-guidelines-get-started.php

33)  Attend a Veteran’s Day parade

34)  Attend a presentation/speech being given by a veteran.  Many retirement communities hold speaking events to honor their members who are veterans, so just call around to your local assisted living facilities to find an event.  My own grandfather will be speaking about his experiences in the Korean war and selling his book at his retirement home.  The money he raises for the book will go to wounded warriors.  He made sure his daughter set up a Facebook page for the event!  That’s right, even my 81 year-old grandfather gets the value of social media!

35)  Hug a veteran.

36)  Teachers- get children involved in the day.  Ask them to create “thank you” posters and put them up around town for veterans to see.

37)  Post a message on a social network thanking our veterans.  You never know who is reading your posts and just needed to hear “thank you.”

38)  Send the name of your Veteran family member (or friend) to Operation Gratitude and they will receive letters from strangers who want to thank them for their service.

39)  Grant a wounded warrior’s wish.

40)  Are you flying on Southwest Airlines this weekend?  If so, you should find specially marked postcards at each gate where you can write a thank you note that will be sent on your behalf to troops.

41)  Read and comment on online stories from the battlefield.  One of my friends sent me this article.  Her husband (Taylor Still) served in Iraq and experienced some truly heartbreaking moments as described in this story.  I don’t think you can truly understand what these men and women experienced until you read an article like this.

42)  Take a moment of silence to remember those who gave their lives to protect our freedom.

43)  Donate your old wireless phone so that a care package will be sent to soldiers.

44)  Save your expired coupons and send them to a military base.  Military families can still use expired coupons for up to 6 months past the coupon expiration date.

45)  Lend a sympathetic ear.  Every day, I check in on Facebook to see how one of my high school friends is doing.  She and her two daughters are living on base in Germany while her husband is deployed.  I’ve learned so much about the emotional roller-coaster she lives out every day.    She knows that no Facebook comment will bring her as much comfort as her husband’s arms, but she is so appreciative any time someone just says they’re thinking about her and her family.  I’ve also learned how to be more sensitive for her.  When I travel for work, I am sometimes inclined to post something about missing my husband.  It never occurred to me until recently how much that can upset a military spouse who hasn’t seen his/her partner in months.

46)  Mow a veteran’s lawn (or shovel their snow/rake their leaves this time of year).

47)  Donate your car to Cars For Troops.

48)  Wear a “Hero Bracelet

49)  Send your old Beanie Babies to soldiers.  They use them to connect with local children and build relationships/trust within villages.

50)  Give recognition to a Veteran at your Work.  

51)  Don’t forget about the four-legged veterans.  Support the Vetdogs program with a donation or by spreading the word about their program.

52)  Drive a veteran to their doctor appointments.

53)  Connect with groups like the Wounded Warrior project on Facebook and Twitter to show your support year-round.

54)  Volunteer for the Wounded Warrior Project.

55)  Attend an Operation Welcome Home event.

56)  Email a soldier to say thanks!

57)  Ask a military family or veteran what they need.

58)  Surprise a military family/veteran with a home cooked meal.

59)  Send International Phone Cards overseas for current soldiers.

60)  Foster a soldier’s pet while they are deployed.

61)  Buy a product that supports soldiers.  For example, ONEHOPE Wines donates 50% of the profit from each bottle sold to a charity.  Their “Supporting Our Troops California Zinfandel” is pretty tasty too.

62)  Stop by your local war memorial and say a silent thank you to those who died while serving the country.

63)  Support the VFW.

64)  Wear red, white and blue today.

65)  Bring a bag of groceries to a veterans home.

66)  Bake some sugar free cookies and take them to the local VA retirement homes in your area.

67)  Visit a VA retirement home and offer to scan and print larger pictures of their family members so they are easier to see.

68)  Do one good deed today in honor of those who gave their life for the country.

69)  Help modify homes for wounded veterans that need ramps, handrails, etc.

70)  Post a YouTube video about why you’re thankful for our veterans (and post the link in the comment section here).

71)  Leave a comment here telling the story of your favorite veteran.  Who is he/she?  Where did he/she serve?  What makes you proud of their service?

72)  Volunteer or donate to Operation Homefront.

73)  When you see a soldier, just give them a smile, wink, thumbs up or a nod to let them know you appreciate them.  They get it.

74)  Teach your children the history of Veterans Day.

75)  Help more veterans take the Honor Flight.

76)  If you’re in an airport when Honor Flight members are boarding or arriving from a plane, stop and cheer for them.  I was lucky enough to be in BWI airport when an Honor Flight arrived, and stood and cheered with every single person in the terminal for about 10 minutes until each veteran had passed us by.  There was not a dry eye in the place, and the veterans cheeks probably hurt from smiling so big!  It was truly an honor just to witness the moment.

77)  Offer to babysit for a military spouse.  They need a night off too.

78)  Hug a military child.  They struggle with loneliness and sadness every day their parent is deployed.

79)  If you’re crafty, offer to help a veteran scrapbook their pictures, letters, etc so they can share it with others.

80)  Have a sign in front of your business?  Replace your usual marketing message with “Thank you veterans!”

81)  Change your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc profile picture to something patriotic (a yellow ribbon, an American flag, or a picture of your beloved veteran).

82)  Each time you thank a soldier, thank their family too.  They all sacrifice so much for our freedom.

83)  Buy a veteran a military-themed gift.

84)  Send popcorn to the troops.

85)  If allowed, bring your well-behaved pet to a VA retirement home to bring smiles to the faces of the residents.

86)  Walk a veteran’s dog (or scoop the kitty litter).

87)  Donate your unused Frequent Flyer miles to a veteran.

88)  Invite a veteran to your Thanksgiving dinner.

89)  Help a service member connect with his/her family through videoconferencing facilities.

90)  Send books to soldiers.

91)  Say the Pledge of Allegiance today.

92)  Ask you child’s teacher if they can bring a Veteran to school with them for a day.

93)  Read a Veteran’s bio.

94)  Learn about PTSD so you can be sensitive to the issues soldiers around you might be facing.

95)  Did you recently move?  Save your bubble wrap, extra boxes, and tape and help build care packages with those supplies.

96)  Adopt a military family for the holidays.  Whether through emotional or financial support, they will appreciate the extra care during these emotional times.

97)  Write a blog post about how you thanked a veteran today

98)  Support veteran-based legislation.

99)  Send this list to a friend who needs help thinking of ways to thank Veterans.

100)  Remember our veterans all year long- not just on Veterans Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panera Bread- Feeding the Needy by Thinking Differently

If you’ve visited the Panera Bread location in Clayton, MO, Portland, OR, or Dearborn, MI, you might have noticed something strange about the menu.  There are no prices. 

nonprofitx largeThat’s right, no set prices for menu items.  These 3 locations are actually non-profit community cafes called Panera Cares where customers choose what they would like to pay.

If you have money to spare, you can pay more than the typical price for your meal, but if you have nothing to offer you can still eat.  The cafe is not a “soup kitchen,” though, it is a way for members of the community to help one another when in need.  If someone cannot pay at all, they are not denied a meal, but they are urged to donate their time. They are also using the store as a way provide job/skills training to disadvantaged youth.

The 3 locations were chosen strategically.  They were placed in reasonably affluent neighborhoods with access to public transportation, which has allowed for a diverse clientele.

At these 3 locations, Panera Bread Foundation has found that about 20% of people pay more than the retail price for their meal while 20% pay less.  About 60% of people pay roughly the original retail value.  Within a few months of the first store opening, Panera Cares turned a profit (which they reinvest in skills training).

Who would have thought that removing the price from a menu would result in people paying more than the item is worth?  This is a great example of an organization thinking differently about how to approach a problem like feeding the needy.

Panera already donates between $100-150 Million in products each year by donating their “less fresh” baked goods to charitable organizations.  The Panera Cares cafe is just one more example of how this organization continues to take care of the community through healthy meals, discounted or free items, and skills training.

Kudos to Panera for “thinking differently.

How can you make a difference today?

(image source credit to Tim A. Parker of USA Today)

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Decisions: Khan Academy

Have you ever tried to help a sibling, child, or friend with their homework?  Salman Khanwas asked to help his cousin Nadia with her math problems in 2004, and he turned that simple request into a non-profit organization that has helped 38 million YouTube viewers worldwide.

Salman is a 33 year old from New Orleans who just wanted to help his cousin and other family members learn math.  Before I talk about his “Extraordinary Decision” I should be clear that I don’t consider Salman “ordinary” in any traditional sense of the term.  He received a perfect score on the math section of the SAT’s, holds degrees in mathematics, electrical engineering, and computer science in addition to an MBA from Harvard.  He’s wicked smart! However, he was an average person in the sense that he was holding down a full time job and he just wanted to help his cousin learn how to solve math problems.

Salman began remotely tutoring his cousin online and over time realized it would be more efficient to record his lessons and post them on YouTube.  As the popularity of his videos grew, he realized the need for “free education” provided in a simple, direct, and relaxed approach.  Today, Salman has produced over 2,000 ten-minute videos on YouTube ranging from elementary school mathematics to college level calculus (where was this when I was in undergrad?).  He averages 35,000 hits per day and has big plans for the future of Khan Academy?  Monetization, right?

Wrong!

Khan has received several offers to sell his videos and the Khan Academy and turned each one down.  The organization itself is a non-profit.  Khan could likely retire today based on the offers he has received.  Google has even contributed $2 Million to translate the videos into additional languages.  The possibilities are endless.  Individuals in the most remote areas of the world can receive world-class tutoring with the click of the mouse.  It’s amazing.

As if the story isn’t extraordinary enough already, consider the fact that Salman has been named one of Fortune Magazine’s “Top 40 under 40″ (a prestigious list of rising entrepreneurs) and even Bill Gates said he uses the Khan Academy to teach his kids.

What I find truly extraordinary is his perspective on selling Khan Academy:

“I’ve been approached several times, but it just didn’t feel right. When I’m 80, I want to feel that I helped give access to a world-class education to billions of students around the world.”

As far as his long-term vision, he says:

“I see Khan Academy becoming the world’s first free, world-class virtual school where anyone can learn anything–for free.

The videos are just part of the vision. We hope to build out the adaptive software to cover all the topics that the videos cover. We also intend to develop simulation games to give more nuanced and applied understanding of concepts.”

I am amazed and inspired by Salman Khan’s brilliance, innovation, and philanthropy.

Salman Khan decided to think differently, and he is changing the world.

How did you make a difference in the world today?

Khan

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