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Opinion: Every day should be Veterans Day

By Betsy Anderson , CNN
November 9, 2012 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
John Anderson, the writer's father, in Vietnam in the 1960s.
John Anderson, the writer's father, in Vietnam in the 1960s.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Veterans Day is Sunday, November 11
  • "Veterans don't always ask for help. There's a lot of pride," says head of aid group
  • There are ways to honor Veterans every day

(CNN) -- "What day is Veterans Day?"

It was a simple question my colleague asked me a few weeks ago. I was startled, then a little horrified. I wondered how anyone could not know when America officially honors military Veterans. When I was growing up, and even now, every day is Veterans Day.

My dad was a veteran of Korea and three combat tours in Vietnam. He never talked about his military service but it was the phantom of my childhood. He had an explosive temper and terrible nightmares. He drank too much and yelled even more. He never held a job for more than a year or two, if at all, and looking back now, I realize he must have suffered terribly.

John Anderson died from cancer in 1996.
John Anderson died from cancer in 1996.

But he loved America, his kids and happy hours at the VFW. He hated hippies, foreign cars and people who belittled the armed forces. Red, white and blue were his favorite colors. He carried his service around in his heart, his mind and in the metal shrapnel scattered in his body until the day he died. For him, every day was Veterans Day, because he lived his time at war in some way every day.

It's a family tradition. My father's father fought in the trenches of Europe in World War I, my uncles served in World War II. My brother Ole joined the Marines when he was 17 and now, 35 years later, he is still serving. Although he doesn't talk about his time in Iraq and Afghanistan, he, like my dad, carries his service in his heart and his mind. My brother always says his heroes are the Marines he lost in Iraq. To this day, he honors those men by staying in touch with their families and keeping their memories alive. Every day will always be Veterans Day for him.

 The writer\'s brother, Ole, has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The writer's brother, Ole, has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

My niece Susie is a private in the Army. She joined straight out of high school. I dread the day when she, too, will come home from a far off land wounded on the inside or out, when Veterans Day is every day for her, too.

I am like most Americans. I have never fought in a war, never smelled fear and ammunition in combat, never worried about being blown up by a roadside bomb. We need to remember those who fought for our country while we stayed safe, out of the crossfire.

The Veterans Administration says there are 23 million living U.S. Veterans. They could be your co-workers, neighbors and friends. Even if you don't know anyone who has served in the armed forces, there are some small things you can do to let them know you appreciate their service.

Susie, the writer\'s niece, graduated from Boot Camp in November 2011.
Susie, the writer's niece, graduated from Boot Camp in November 2011.

How you can help a Veteran any day

California-based Operation Gratitude sponsors programs honoring veterans year-round with care packages that include handwritten letters. There are directions on their website. The group sends care packages to VA hospitals, veterans nursing homes, veterans groups and other support organizations.

You can also create your own care package for a VA Hospital. Donations of magazines, coffee or cookies, new or gently used clothing and telephone cards are always welcome. Contact your local VA Hospital for more information on what's needed in your community.

According to the VA, a little more than a fifth of the adult homeless population has served in the military. The VA has a National Call Center for Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The center provides free 24/7 access to trained counselors. Call 1-877-4AID VET (1-877-424-3838.)

The writer decorates her dad\'s grave on Memorial Day.
The writer decorates her dad's grave on Memorial Day.

In Washington and other cities, some organizations are working to help Homeless Veterans.

"Veterans don't always ask for help. There's a lot of pride," says Christy Respress, executive director of Pathways to Housing DC.

Pathways works with MIriam's Kitchen to identify veterans who need help and get them off the street. They do this by getting them into permanent housing and providing them with psychological help and other services.

These are just a few ways to help make every day Veterans Day. There are so many more things you can do in your own community. Not just on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, but a daily Armistice in our hearts.

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