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In Lebanon County as in much of the United States, most Veterans Days ceremonies have been canceled because of restrictions brought on by COVID-19.
“Although we all want to recognize and thank our veterans, it isn’t safe to do so via public gatherings,” H. Rebekah Waddell, chairwoman of the Lebanon County Veterans Day Committee, told LebTown via email.
So elected officials are improvising.
From 9-11 a.m. today, Congressman Dan Meuser, state Sen. Dave Arnold and state Reps. Frank Ryan, Russ Diamond and Sue Helm are hosting a drive-thru event at the Lebanon Valley Exposition Center & Fairgrounds to honor and celebrate veterans. Participants will drive a route lined with local organizations and businesses displaying signs of gratitude, according to Arnold’s website. The trip will end with recognition and expressions of appreciation from local leaders.
Waddell suggested other ways the public can get involved, too.
One is to join groups across America that will ring bells – commonly church bells – at 11 a.m. today. She encouraged Lebanon County’s houses of worship to take part in this communal thank you.
There’s also a “Bells of Peace: A World War I Remembrance” smartphone app created by the Doughboy Foundation.
The second way the public can honor veterans is to reach out to them through social media, email, or a phone call, Waddell noted. And if you happen to see one in person, please say thank you.
Some businesses are doing their part as well by providing discounts, deals and freebies to veterans. For example, Applebee’s is among the restaurants offering a free meal to veterans from a limited menu Nov. 11.
Further recognition opportunities for veterans are available on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs blog and Military.com. Waddell asked readers to spread the word to the veterans they know about these offers. (Editor’s Note: If your business is offering a discount today, email it to email@example.com and we’ll include it at the bottom of this article.)
Scott Kohr, director of veterans affairs for Lebanon County, has some ideas as well.
“… The most important thing for your readers is to be safe not only for themselves but for veterans,” he wrote in an email. “Make sure to wear a mask and wash your hands.”
The public also can support veterans through the pandemic by donating to a local veterans organization group. “PA Wounded Warriors does fantastic work but there are a lot of veterans groups out there,” he said.
“(Shopping) at a veterans’ supported business is another good way,” Kohr added. “Displaying the flag is another good way. If your readers know of a veteran, a letter showing your appreciation can mean the world to a veteran and, of course, just thanking the veteran for their service is nice, too.”
Don’t forget to thank the spouses of veterans as well.
National Veterans Day observances livestreamed
Veterans Day 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of War War II. Originally known as Armistice Day to commemorate Germany’s surrender in World War I at 11 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month), the holiday became known as Veterans Day in 1954.
The United States is home to about 17.4 million veterans, according to census data. In 2019, just over half were 65 years old or older. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that nearly 42 million Americans have fought in wars from the American Revolution in 1775 to Desert Storm in 1991. Another 3.3 million veterans have served since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Several national-level observances marking the holiday will be livestreamed. That includes the Presidential Armed Forces Full Honor Wreath-Laying Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, hosted by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, beginning at 11 a.m.
A longer list of virtual events is found on the VA blog.
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