Thanking a Veteran on Veterans Day can be humbling. How do you truly convey your gratitude for the freedoms you enjoy earned through a military family’s selfless sacrifice? The words can feel hollow even when said with the deepest sincerity.
If you ask a Veteran what they would like to hear, many might shy away claiming they are not heroes, only Soldiers or Airmen or Marines doing a job. Some may nod politely and mumble a thank you, uncomfortable with the praise. Yet, praise is exactly what they have earned. So how does someone thank a Veteran for those perfect summer days enjoyed with family, or those holidays gathered around a feast without worry? Perhaps it’s not in the words at all, but in the actions. Maybe thank you is expressed by emulating their effort, and serving right here at home.
Retired Army Veteran and Licensed Professional Counselor, Elizabeth Sherr thinks so. “Spend some time listening to the stories of our older veterans. These veterans paved the way, their sacrifices and hardships are what makes our military today the most advanced and proficient in the world,” Sherr explained. “Volunteer to coach a sport or teach a class. Find a way to give back to the community, our children and the families of service members and veterans.”
Here, in Clarksville, TN, where you are as likely to share the sidewalk with a soldier in uniform, as you are a businessperson in a suit, it would seem many have gotten the message. This is one place where giving back is something to behold. Every Thursday, for example, that spirit is on display on the backs of Team Red, White and Blue (RWB) members as they gather at the Tennessee State Veterans Home for game night, or throughout the week as they run for connection or ruck for the homeless. Twice a week, nestled in a building downtown, YAIPak volunteers gather, organize and pack boxes of home goods for Veterans getting back on their feet. And, still, there’s a new non-profit opening its doors and Hammering for Hope, Arts for Hearts volunteers who help heal through creativity, Loaves & Fishes who help feed our homeless veterans, Project Healing Waters that unites veterans through fly-fishing and, of course, Urban Ministries whose contributions to the community seem endless.
The giving spirit doesn’t end there either. It extends to the city itself and within the workings of local businesses as well. Once a month more than 50 like-minded organizations gather to ensure our local heroes are receiving the help they’ve earned. Every year Clarksville pulls out all the stops to welcome our veterans home with a five-day, citywide celebration, and then there is the recently formed Clarksville Suicide Prevention Alliance, a city and countywide effort dedicated to preventing veteran suicide.
This is a town of giving. It is as if generous efforts are woven into the fiber of its citizens; citizens who know what it takes to keep our nation’s flag flying. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it is because it is a town of military families that have lived lives of service that it just comes naturally here and our flags fly a little higher because of it. Either way, it’s a town that can make a Veteran proud. In today’s world, it may be the most meaningful thank you one can give.
From all of us here at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic it’s an honor to serve our veterans and their families and to call Clarksville home with all who so graciously give back to this most deserving population.