“What are you doing this Veterans Day?” This is a question I’ve been asked many times this week. “I don’t know, when’s that?” I replied. I wasn’t being a smartass; it’s not like I have it circled in bright red marker on my calendar or something. For the record, it’s the 11th—November 11th of every year in the United States.

“Great,” I thought. “No mail and the banks are going to be closed. How does that help me out?” 

Chances are they’ll be eating burgers and drinking beer…and that’s just fine with me.

I’m not knocking Veterans Day; it’s great that people want to recognize those who served. However, I feel that it should be a private recognition that each individual can choose to make. That’s what we’re all about as a nation: freedom of choice.

There is an upside, I’m a cheap bastard, and there are all kinds of deals to be had on the second VD of the year (the first being Valentine’s Day). I just checked it out, and Bonefish Grill is offering a free order of Bang Bang Shrimp and a soft drink today to veterans and current service members. I like Bang Bang Shrimp… a good sauce. Also, you can pick up a free donut from Dunkin’ on your way home. No word on whether you get coffee or not. And while we’re talking about coffee, Starbucks treats veterans, active duty members (sorry, Guard and Reserve), and military spouses to a free 12 oz hot or iced brewed coffee. Cool. I like Starbucks as well, and I love the fact that they are donating $0.25 from every cup of hot brewed coffee sold that day to Team Red, White & Blue, and Headstrong to support the mental health and well-being of military communities.

If you genuinely want to help veterans (and it doesn’t matter what day of the year it is), support organizations that help us maintain our physical and mental health. I’ve lost too many friends and teammates to suicide. It’s tragic and heartbreaking, one is too many, and it doesn’t have to be. We need to get information out there that help is available. For example, did you know that 988 is the number to call if you are experiencing a severe mental health crisis? I just learned that last week, and it’s good to know. If you feel like you are at the end of your rope, the last thing you want to do is to be looking up a phone number. 988 is easy to remember, even for a guy like me who’s bumped his head more than a few times.

If you are looking for places to give, consider organizations like K9s for Warriors, which partners dogs from high-kill shelters with veterans who need them as service animals.

Image courtesy of K9s for Warriors, where 92% of their veteran graduates report a reduction in their need for medication.

You might want to consider the Fisher House Foundation. Many of us veterans have ongoing healthcare issues; no secret there. The cost of lodging is the last thing you want to worry about when traveling a distance away from home for a checkup or procedure. Fisher House Foundation has facilities near military and VA hospitals worldwide, providing our families and us with a comfortable place to stay.

Gary Sinise has been a massive supporter of veterans over the years. That’s right, LT Dan himself. The Gary Sinise Foundation helps vets in various ways, one of which is through its RISE (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program, which provides mortgage-free housing to qualifying veterans all over the country.

Special Operations Warrior Foundation is a four-star rated charity. Their mission is to “ensure complete post-secondary educational support and additional educational opportunities ‘cradle to career,’ for eligible surviving children of fallen Special Operations Personnel and children of all Medal of Honor Recipients.” They also provide immediate financial assistance to severely wounded, ill, and injured Special Operations Personnel.

Last but certainly not least is my personal favorite, Folds of Honor. The foundation offers scholarships to the children of fallen and disabled veterans. 91% of the money they give goes directly to scholarship funds. My son is one of those fortunate scholarship recipients; he has been for four years now, and their money has enabled him to pursue a degree in computer science at an excellent private university that we would not otherwise be able to afford.

So, what am I doing this Veterans Day? I’m having my BBQ and a beer or two, but I’m also silently thanking those thousands upon thousands of unsung veterans whose service has enabled us to have the quality of life that some take for granted today.