Veterans Day may look different again this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but knowing the right things to say to a veteran on the national holiday is the same.
On Thursday, veterans across the country and globe will be celebrated in a holiday dating back over 100 years after an agreement was signed to end World War I hostilities.
“What one veteran may find complimentary, another may find offensive or condescending,” John Raughter, deputy director of media relations for American Legion, told USA TODAY.
“There are 19 million veterans, with 19 million different opinions.”
Raughter, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said it’s best to thank a veteran for their service and resume listening because if a veteran feels comfortable, they may open up more.
“It is not a time for one to share their political opinions, or ask about how many kills or battles they have been in,” he said. “It is important to remember that Veterans Day is for all veterans, not just for those in combat.”
Raughter said its not recommended to make a veteran feel less of a veteran if they were never deployed in their military duties.
Shawn Brown, a U.S. Army veteran, told USA TODAY that people should be cautious of acting like they know what a veteran went through.
“It gets under people’s skin, especially if the veteran actually got down in the trenches and lost brothers and sisters in conflict,” Brown said.
“Just be normal and ask them about their greatest accomplishments, both personal and professional, if they choose to share.”
Akilah McNair, a U.S. Army veteran, told USA TODAY that Veterans Day is not the time to say you don’t support the military.
“I’ve heard people say they don’t support the military because they don’t support war, but I haven’t had many bad experiences with that,” she said.
Veterans Day differs from Memorial Day where the U.S. honors fallen soldiers. Raughter said you have more freedom to find the appropriate things to say.
“I think that the one thing that does rub most veterans absolutely the wrong way on Memorial Day is saying ‘Happy Memorial Day’,” he said. “It’s not happy.”
Raughter said thanking veterans for their service is enough, and if there is a veteran-owned business in your area, to go visit and patronize.
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