Community Rises to Honor Veterans in Western MA
Volunteer & Cultural Opportunities to Honor Veterans on Veterans Day in Western MA
When someone has lots of experience in a profession, we call them a veteran in their field – veteran teachers likely have years and years of experience, and veteran nurses have spent decades in healthcare. When we hear the word “veteran” without the name of a profession attached to it, however, it usually means only one specific thing – military veterans. While the term “veteran” is frequently associated with those former military members who have fought in wars, it actually applies to all honorably or medically discharged former military members who served for at least two years – regardless of whether or not they engaged in combat.
Veterans Day, a national holiday celebrated every year on November 11th, provides communities with the opportunity to learn about and offer appreciation for the service provided by military veterans. While many veterans fought in wars, many others served during times when the United States wasn’t engaged in combat and supported the country by participating in community projects, offering assistance during national disasters, and offering security to important government officials and locations. Regardless of your views regarding US participation in wars, Veterans Day serves as a time to thank those who have dedicated a part of their lives to serving their country.
Locally, families can engage in community service projects by becoming involved with the Veterans Association of Central Western Massachusetts’ volunteer program or by donating items to veterans who live on the VA campus. While most volunteer opportunities are for older teens and adults, groups of children are invited to visit as recreation volunteers – an opportunity that can range from helping residents get outside to enjoy nice weather to performing a concert. Visiting the VA is a great way for families and community groups to reach out to those who live there, and provides residents who may not be able to explore the community very often with a slice of local culture. Additionally, a visit can provide volunteers with experience working in an intergenerational environment, and will allow them the opportunity to learn from community members they may not have encountered otherwise.
Folks who aren’t able to provide volunteer service to VA residents can still offer support by collecting high-need items to donate to veterans. Of course, monetary donations are always welcome, but more thoughtful and personal donation items include items for entertainment, like new or gently used magazines, DVD’s, and CD’s; new clothing, sneakers, and shower shoes; supplies for communication, such as phone cards, note cards, and stamps; and treats like cookies and popcorn. Families can collect items themselves, or can organize an item-collecting drive within their school, youth group, or neighborhood.
In honor of Veterans Day, two local educational institutions will be offering free admission to veterans on November 11th. The Springfield Museums are offering current and former military members free access to their collections for the day. Open from 9am-8pm daily, the Springfield Museums are filled with fascinating exhibits on art, history, science, technology, and more. Additionally, Old Sturbridge Village offers current and former military members and their families free admission in honor of Veterans Day. Between 9:30am and 4pm, families can visit for special military-related activities and demonstrations (in addition to the village’s regular opportunities for learning through living history).
[Photo Credit: (cc) DVIDSHUB]