This Veterans Day, on Nov. 11, we should all take a moment to thank and honor the veterans in our lives for the sacrifices they’ve made to defend and protect the freedoms we enjoy. The smallest gestures like picking up the phone to call a relative or friend who has served our country, attending a local Veterans Day parade with your children or donating to an organization that focuses on helping veterans, can be so powerful.
But why wait for Veterans Day to help or honor or celebrate a veteran? These servicemen and women need our help and honor and celebration everyday. The sacrifices they’ve made — being separated from parents, spouses, children, for months on end, witnessing more atrocity than anyone should have to bear, putting life and limb on the line day after day after day — can never be repaid in gratitude in just one day.
It is especially important for these returning soldiers to know how grateful we are right now. It is no secret that many Americans are suffering in a slow economy with record levels of unemployment. But did you know that on any night in the United States, approximately 107,000 veterans are homeless? And considering that around 1.5 million other veterans are considered to be at risk for homelessness, it’s clear the need to support service members, veterans and their families has never been greater than it is today. There have been more than 2 million servicemen and women who have helped defend our country since 9/11, and many of them are now struggling to adjust to civilian life, to support their families — many are even finding it difficult to stay in their homes.
I am one of the very lucky ones; after returning from five years of duty in the U.S. Army, serving in Panama, Korea and Kuwait, I was able to re-enter the workforce, eventually earning my MBA, and landing at Sears Holdings. I love my job, but one of my favorite aspects of it is when I get to show my appreciation for the soldiers who have served — or are serving — our country. Luckily for me, I get that opportunity pretty often. Through our Heroes at Home program and holiday Wish Registry, Sears activates several initiatives that help servicemen and women, and it’s one of the reasons I’m most proud to represent the company. It really hits home for me when I’m able to help honor the brave warriors who have protected and fought for the freedoms we all enjoy in this country.
I think of the brave soldiers I served with, especially those who saved my life when my Humvee rolled over during night operations. Unless you have been on the front line yourself, you cannot imagine the levels of bravery and fortitude that engaging in combat requires. It’s an experience that stays with you all your life; both the good — the closeness and respect and camaraderie that develops with your brothers and sisters in arms — and the bad — the horrors of war are well-documented and affect each individual soldier differently. Just think of how much good one person can do, and thank a veteran today. And tomorrow. And the next. Make everyday a Veteran’s Day.
Tom Aiello is a U.S. Army veteran and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He served as the division vice president of public relations for Sears Holdings where he manages all marketing public relations across Sears and Kmart, including the Heroes at Home program.