In normal times, we’d be lining Yakima Avenue today, getting ready for the annual Veterans Day parade.
But as we’re all painfully aware, these are not normal times.
Instead of an enemy in some foreign land, we’re still battling a pandemic that’s killed thousands of Americans, infected the economy and left many without jobs.
It’s also canceled countless public events and gatherings — like this year’s Veterans Day parade.
Given the circumstances, how can we honor our local heroes this Veterans Day?
Numerous veterans support organizations and the commander of Yakima’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post have a few simple suggestions:
- Parade or no, the Yakima area still has a few safe gatherings (see attached box), such as the Yakima Warriors Association’s annual ceremony at Sarg Hubbard Park, the Blue Star Memorial gathering at Tahoma Cemetery and the VFW’s spaghetti feed. Show you care by showing up.
- Fly your flag — or any other symbol that salutes local service people. Stake a “thank you, veterans” sign or pennant in yard, or put a green light bulb on your porch to signal your respect. “Doing little things like that can go a long way,” said Shadrick Kautzman, the 37-year-old commander of Yakima’s VFW Post 379.
- Donate to local groups that support veterans, such as the Yakima Veterans Coalition, the Freedom Pantry for Veterans or other organizations.
- Ask veterans about their experiences in the service. Ask what jobs they did, where they were stationed, what struck them about living abroad. Be sensitive, though, said Kautzman, a former Army Spc. Don’t make the cringe-worthy — but all-too-common — mistake of asking, “Did you kill anyone?”
- Spend some time with a veteran — especially someone who might be lonely, disabled or struggling with personal difficulties. Or volunteer your time to help out at a veterans center.
One more thing to keep in mind this Veterans Day: If you see someone in uniform or maybe wearing a cap with a military emblem, yelling “Thank you for your service” might seem like a way to show your respect — but consider showing some restraint. Think how you’d feel if strangers were always popping out from behind grocery shelves or waving as you passed on the street.
“It’s always odd,” Kautzman said. “We don’t really know how to respond.”
Little gestures mean a lot, though. A nod or a quiet thank-you will be appreciated.
“Don’t be afraid to say thank you,” Kautzman said. “The veteran will know what ‘thank you’ is for.”