The community events we choose to support with our businesses, organizations, or as individuals speaks volumes about what we value, and we all have a wonderful opportunity coming up this Fall – Veterans Day. It’s a time to say “thank you,” to meet and speak with veterans (most people don’t know any), and a time, especially for young people, to put down the texting and learn about service, honor, and history.

How will your community mark Veterans Day and how can you visibly demonstrate your appreciation for the veterans in your town?

It will come back to you

I had the pleasure of helping to create a military event in Salem, Massachusetts, for the Peabody Essex Museum – which continues every year — and there is no doubt in my mind that the museum’s decision to plan this event in the way they did has come back to them in spades.

It also changed my life. It’s the event that “keeps on giving” because of the work and the people it brought into my life. I know I am not alone, and that rewards will come your way as well when you get involved in this kind of community/military event.

A quick story

The event was Armory Park Dedication Day, virtual roundtables and as the name implies the museum asked me to help plan the dedication of their new park. The park had been built on the site of the old Salem Amory, which had burned down, and there was a lot of “emotion” about it — a lot of controversy, and hard feelings toward the museum because of their decision to remove the last, crumbling wall and build this park.

I was told I would be working closely with a Brigadier General from the Massachusetts National Guard, with the local veterans agent, with a local military group called the Second Corps of Cadets (the Armory had been their “home”), and because the park honored military service throughout the county, I would be working with the veterans agents and historical societies in 34 towns.

For the first time in my life, I met, worked with, and became close to a group of veterans and it changed my life. These men were generous, kind, smart, and really “had my back.” The event we were planning was huge, complicated, and terribly important – more so after the attacks of September 11. I knew I could count on them.

You may know men like this, most of them veterans of the Korean War and the Vietnam War, but you may not. Most people I know don’t know anyone in the military, and it’s a shame.

This experience took me completely by surprise because growing In Concord, Massachusetts, and really coming of age in the 1970s, it was “in” to be anti-war and anti-military. Had I known my Navy commander grandfather better, I might have wised up, but I didn’t. My father didn’t serve, and we weren’t close anyway. It never occurred to me that you could be anti-war and PRO-military at the same time. And as I learned from these men in Salem, who wants peace more than people who have lived through war?

So, spending time with these men, and working very closely with a few in particular – they know who they are! – I was a changed person on a very deep level. I know they benefited from the event as well, and from the museum’s decision to do it “big.” Armory Park Dedication Day was a very, very public “thank you” to veterans and active service members, on a national scale, and a lasting tribute to this region’s history.

It will come back — it bears repeating

Again, there is no doubt in my mind that “something” wonderful came back to the museum, to every volunteer, and donor. How could it not?

For one thing, any hard feelings are now gone, and Salem has a beautiful, much-used park!

So let’s start thinking about Veterans Day now. How can you say “thank you?”

Bonnie Hurd Smith, the President and CEO of History Smiths, believes in using “history” for passion, purpose, and profit — for businesses, organizations, and individuals. The results? Attention, customers, loyalty, a high status reputation, and the knowledge that you are connected to something that matters.

Bonnie is a marketing, PR, event planning, and cultural tourism professional who also happens to be a respected historian, author, and public speaker.


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