I think it’s safe to say that we all lead pretty busy lives. We go to work. We take care of our families. We hang out with friends. We try to find time to eat, sleep, and relax during fleeting moments of free time. You might think scheduling time for extra activities in order to get involved and give back to our military service members, veterans and their families is impossible. I thought it was impossible. That is until I scrolled through COSF’s 99 Ways To Get Involved page. I took on the challenge to do 5 Ways in 5 Days and was surprised to see just how easy it actually was!
Day 1: Make a Patriotic Playlist
I love music, and I love making playlists. When I saw that making a patriotic playlist was a suggested way to get involved, I headed straight for Spotify on Day 1! I started sifting through suggested patriotic songs and realized there were so many, a lot of which I knew. I began adding songs to a new playlist titled “America!” (how fitting?) and kept going until I found about 20 songs.
Each song I added had a new or different meaning to me. For example, “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood is so special and encompasses just what it means to thank our troops and stand with them; “This Land is Your Land”, covered by Anthony D’Amato reminds me that America is a melting pot, meant to be shared with all people and cultures regardless of differences. I definitely will be listening to my new patriotic playlist on all of the patriotic holidays, and any other time I feel like honoring our service members, veterans, and their families!
Day 2: Talk to and Listen to a Veteran
I am very lucky and proud that both of my grandpas served in our military. My grandpa on my mom’s side was in the Air Force, and my grandpa on my dad’s side, who I call Opa, served in the Marines. Both love nothing more than to talk about their time spent in the service. So, on Day 2 I decided to give them both a call!
I called my grandpa first. I asked how he was doing, then we started chatting about his experience in the Air Force. He loves talking about it. He told me the story about when he worked on airplanes during the Korean War up in Alaska. He told me about working in the kitchen at his base, peeling hundreds of potatoes for his fellow soldiers. He told me about a time he stuck to his guns and refused to fudge on his maintenance reports after a higher ranking officer asked him to do so. I could sense in his voice how proud he is of his service in the Air Force, and I knew he was thrilled to share his stories with me!
When I called Opa, I asked how he was. He responded with the usual “Terrible. But that’s better than yesterday!”. After I let out a laugh, we began talking. I asked him about his time in the Marines. Every time he talks about it, my opa gets a slight smile on his face and a look in his eyes as if he were back in time. Though I couldn’t see his face over the phone, I knew that’s how he looked. Opa began by telling me he served as a Marine Embassy guard, being stationed all over the world. He has so many adventurous stories that leave me in awe. He told me about how he met my grandma in Germany and about how he happened to end up in an Argentinian jail for a misunderstanding relating to him being mugged.
I wish everyone could hear my grandpa and opa talk about their life experiences. I laugh so much and learn new things about them with each new conversation. I am always happy to listen and talk to them. It’s an added bonus that I know I make their day with each call and each visit! I highly recommend and encourage you to reach out to a veteran and hear his or her stories!
Day 3: Fly the American Flag
I remember when I was in Kindergarten, each morning we listened to announcements, then we stood up, placed a hand over our hearts and said the Pledge of Allegiance. I would stare at the flag, trying to count out the 50 stars that I knew to be in the blue square. I carried out this tradition everyday, up until my last day of high school.
Reflecting on each word of the pledge makes me think. We pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. We are saying that we support, respect, and honor the flag, what it symbolizes, and those who protect it. Indivisible with liberty and justice for all. We are united as one nation, enjoying freedoms that most people in this world will never experience.
On Day 3 of my 5 ways in 5 days journey, I chose to fly the American flag. I found our flag neatly folded in a storage bin, pulled it out, placed it on a flagpole, and hung it outside of my family’s home. Such a simple gesture that carries so much meaning. When I leave my house and come home each day, I see the flag. I remember that freedom comes at a price and so many have given their lives to protect it.
I am honored and proud to fly the American flag, supporting service members, veterans, and their families! I encourage you to do the same!
Day 4: Donate Clothes to Veterans
The night of Day 3, as I was scrolling through the 99 Ways list before I went to bed, trying to decide on what I was going to do on Day 4, I came across the donations and drives section. I looked around my room and saw the mountains of clothes I never wear. I knew exactly what I would be doing the next day.
Day 4 involved purging all of the clothes, shoes, and accessories I never wore. I sorted and organized what I planned to donate, then went online to schedule a pickup with Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). They made it so easy to donate my items, and, by donating through the VVA, I knew that my donations would go specifically to veterans.
After the VVA picked up my donations, I felt as though a weight was lifted! My closet was decluttered, and I was happy to help supply veterans with new belongings. If you find that you have unused or unwanted stuff that you want to get rid of, donate it to veterans! (include link to way)
Day 5: Visit Local/National Monuments/Memorials
On Day 5 I happened to visit my older brother who lives in Historic Yorktown. Lucky for me, Yorktown has a rich, important history to our country. Being the location of the last battle of the Revolutionary War, it is riddled with monuments and memorials dedicated to the war.
I visited the Victory Monument, which celebrates the surrender of Cornwallis to General George Washington, signifying the end of the Revolution. While I stood there, looking at the monument towering over me, I began to think about all those who fought for freedom and independence. In that moment, I was incredibly grateful that people were brave enough to stand for and fight for what they believed in.
There are so many local and national monuments and memorials scattered throughout America. Taking the time to visit one or two is easy! Bring along family and friends to share in the experience and make your visit even more memorable.
For me, these 5 ways were the best fit! If you want to find more ways to get involved, visit the 99 Ways page and browse through the list. There is something for everyone! I plan on continuing my service and hope you do too!