While Memorial Day became an official holiday in 1971 to honor those in the armed services who gave the ultimate sacrifice, Patriot Day was added to the federal calendar in 2002, a year to the day after 9/11.
Patriot Day may not mean a day off from work, but the commemorative day does provide an opportunity to thank those who keep us safe.
Here are five ways for you, your family and your community to honor first responders, police, firefighters, paramedics and others who serve and protect:
- Ever wonder what firefighters eat? You may see a bright-red fire engine parked in front of a grocery store around the corner from your home. They have to travel in a group in case they’re dispatched. Back at the firehouse, they often cook for themselves. So how about preparing and delivering a home-cooked meal? Or invite your neighborhood crew to a barbecue, where they can enjoy your community’s amenities, such as the swimming pool and sports courts.
- Everyone loves a care package and or gift basket, and first responders appreciate practical ones. With their demanding, sometimes dangerous, stressful and ever-shifting shifts, first responders appreciate gift cards to restaurants, movie theaters or entertainment venues. Sending packages to troops overseas has long been popular, and here’s a site about them. Putting together care packages can become a family or community effort, too. Gather the neighbors’ kids to make gift baskets for their heroes and write notes to thank them for their service.
- Speaking of thank-you notes, everyone appreciates public thanks. Take a few minutes to pen a Letter to the Editor or to the Police or Fire Chief in your area.
- Volunteering your time is as American as honoring Americans who honor each other. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs operates more than 1,200 healthcare facilities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as American Samoa, Guam, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That means one is bound to be close to your community. According to the VA, more than 75,000 volunteers have contributed some $77 million and 12 million hours. To learn more about the VA Voluntary Service and how to join others who give back to our servicemen and women, visit the website here.
- Money, of course, is always welcome. Organize a community fundraiser with a car wash or a bake sale outside your amenities center. Invite your neighbors to chip into a Monopoly-game-style Community Trust and send the proceeds one of the innumerable organizations that serves first responders, veterans and military personnel and their families.
Note, though, that some charities can be unscrupulous. Be sure to check an organization’s standing. The IRS operates a Tax Exempt Organization Check site, while Charity Watch, GuideStar and the Better Business Bureau help you research, too.
Better yet, support the locals. Drop by or call your local Police or Fire Department, National Guard Armory or other military installation and ask how you can give to your favorite hometown hero.
The nation’s No. 1 homebuilder, Lennar is a family of companies that helps families attain their American Dream. We salute you and our heroes among us.