Holidays are not my thing. I buy too much candy throughout the year to enjoy Halloween, I’ve been on Santa’s bad list for years, and I still can’t figure out Guy Fox day. However, the one holiday I have really come to love over the past few years is Veterans Day. It would be easy to be cynical and think that the guy who writes the VA Disability Blog is pandering when he says that Veterans Day is his favorite holiday, but I don’t pander. Over the past three years I have come to love Veterans Day, and the following will explain why.
In 2011 I started with Jan Dils Attorneys at Law, and I had no idea what to expect. I started working with our VA department, and shortly after that I started managing our social media platforms as well. That quickly turned into writing this blog, and now lots of people read this every month. It was not always that simple though. When Veterans Day 2011 approached I was still new at the social media game, and eagerly looking for content. I came up with an idea that I thought was going to be small at first, but turned into something much larger. I asked everyone in the firm to submit pictures of Veterans who had an impact on their lives. The response was overwhelming, and by the end of the day I was posting multiple pictures and stories every hour. As a rookie in this field I decided that Veterans Day was also a great time to launch our new Veterans Disability Blog. This was a ton of work, and Veterans Day 2011 was exhausting, but worth it. We had the most traffic to our Facebook page that day, and the new blog was a success. Best of all, I got to pay tribute to a couple of Veterans who mean the world to me, and that truly made Veterans Day 2011 special…but it also made me want to do even more for 2012.
Veterans Day 2012 was to be even better than the year prior. Our VA department decided to host an awesome Veterans Day cookout that year. We set up a tent in our parking lot and grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for the community. We allowed Veterans to eat free. The night before the cookout had me doubting the event though. I had just purchased a new car, and was really excited to prep for the cookout. I drove to Sam’s Club and bought all of the supplies we needed for the next day. My Chevy Malibu was loaded with food. I decided to stop by a local fast food drive through to pick up something to eat for the evening. As I was sitting in line, the truck in front of me shifted to reverse, and backed into my car. I was more than a little upset. I was afraid that this was going to set the tone for the next day and that our cookout was going to be a disaster. I was wrong. The cookout was a huge success, we raised a lot of money for our Veterans foundation, and we even included videos for our tribute. All in all 2012 was a great event, but it left me wanting more.
I can say that Veterans Day 2013 is what made me really appreciate the holiday, and realize what it really means. As Veterans Day 2013 approached, I was really put in control of our festivities for the first time. I had a bunch of help from my coworkers, but I had a lot of internal pressure to make this year’s event even more special. For one, we were going to announce the return of our Walk4Vets at the Veterans Day cookout. We also were naming our new benefactor that day, plus, the Monday after, I was going to participate in the Parkersburg Veterans Day Parade. This time I decided to get some help with the shopping. Eric Hillyard, our human resources director volunteered to help me get supplies. I later stated that he came in “like a wrecking ball,” but in a good way, and really made a huge difference in the preparation of the event. Eric also had an SUV and that made transportation a lot easier. The cookout was different this time. I was doing radio interviews, I was interviewed by the local newspaper, and I even took a moment or two to stop, take it all in, and really enjoy the day.
The Monday after the cookout actually was Veterans Day 2013. Myself, and my coworker Jess represented the firm at the Veterans Day parade. We did not have a float, so we caught a ride with the West Virginia University at Parkersburg Veterans Corps. This was great because their group was selected as the benefactor for the Walk4Vets the following year.
I want to take a second to speak about why this group is so great. They are led by a young Veteran named Shawn Healy. I got to know Shawn shortly before Veterans Day 2013. He is truly one of the most dynamic people I have ever met. Shawn is currently serving in the West Virginia Army National Guard and has been deployed to Iraq. Shawn is a full time student as well as the schools Veteran's Advisor. He is very passionate about helping his fellow Veterans, which is by the huge difference he has made with the Veterans Corps. The group as whole has taken on a lot of projects, including granting children of Veterans wishes, and most recently, a supply drive to help local homeless Veterans. They are dedicated to making the lives of Veterans better. Not only do I feel as if our partnership with this group will last a while, but I know we will make the have a great impact on the community. The things to come are going to be epic.
As the parade started, I decided not to ride in Shawn’s truck, but rather run alongside “secret service style,” to hand out copies of our Veterans Disability Book. From this I realized that I was really out of shape. However, as we set off I remember being overcome with the ambiance of the parade. We were near the end of the line, and we were just in front of the one of the local high school marching bands. As there drum line started, I remember thinking that this was a lot like that scene from “The Hunger Games,” except my clothes did not burst into flames. Anyway, it was incredible how many people came out to this event. When I started walking I decided to run up to Veterans standing in the crowd and give them a book and then thanked them for their service. In just a few blocks I met Veterans from World War II, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. As the parade drew to a close we approached the Parkersburg City Park. I must admit that I was impressed by the size of the crowd. We halted for a few moments to allow for congestion to clear. At that time I was able to take everything in completely. It was awesome to see that many people celebrating Veterans. It was then that I realized how great this day really is for our Vets. I get to interact with Veterans every day, I see how great they are on a regular basis, but for one day in November everyone sees what I see. Best of all our Veterans-for the most part-get to be the focus of the day. It’s something great to witness.
I always say there is no better feeling than working with Veterans, and I truly mean that. To me, supporting Veterans is more than just clicking like on a Facebook post, or wearing red, white and blue. It is my career, and one of my passions.
Veterans Day 2014 is still 7 months away. The month before is the return of our Walk4Vets, and I can’t wait. September 13th can’t come soon enough. As for our Veterans Day festivities, I have a lot in store for that too. If you would like to learn more about our Walk4Vets, give me a call: 1-877-526-3457, or click here.