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Veterans Day Service

In our retirement community, Veterans Day is a very special event. This holiday honors the living veterans who served and are serving our great country. In our independent living community, we have Veterans from WWII, the Koren War and Vietnam War. Veterans Day is always celebrated on November 11 at 11:00 a.m.  (I think really it is suppose to be 11:11 am, but that might look funny on your calendar.)

Our program usually involves a few key elements. The first is that we ask the men in the community to make sure that we have the service stats so that we can announce their branch and length of service. This information may be printed on the day's program, used as part of a slide show or shared by the speaker leading the program.  We like to give our veterans a chance to stand out on this day. We ask them to gather together and proceed into the auditorium to sit in a reserved section for them. Sometimes I order a boutonniere or corsage for them to wear into the service, or give them a flag pin, bumper sticker, or other small special gift.

The program begins with the pledge of allegiance and is followed by prayers, songs and speakers. My community's chaplain is the principal participant in this holiday event. I have assisted him with decorations, creating the program, hiring a guest speaker, get a color guard from the area's high school, and making a special slide show that shows the resident in an active duty photo, followed by a current day photo. I was lucky with this and had a resident help getting the old pictures scanned and taking the new ones. Maybe you have that type of volunteer in your community. We also include the playing of each of the branches specific song and ask each person in the audience to stand when they hear a song that is special to them. This is very touching and moves me to tears each time as I look around and see the pride in the audience.  Remember in order to get a speaker or color guard, you will need to plan ahead. This date and time are the same for everyone, and they may be booked already if you wait to long.

In an effort to keep the Veterans Day service fresh every year, we rotate the use of a segment of our program. It is really designed for Memorial Day, but we include it every other year in our Veterans service. It is the White Table Service. Basically:
The table is round — to show our everlasting concern for our missing men.
The tablecloth is white — symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.
The single red rose, displayed in a vase, reminds us of the life of each of the missing, and the loved ones and friends of these Americans who keep the faith, awaiting answers.
The vase is tied with a ribbon, symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing.
A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.
A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers.
The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.
The glass is inverted — to symbolize their inability to share this evening’s [morning''s/day''s] toast.
The chairs are empty — they are missing.
A Candle– Lit to remember that the light of America will always be the light in a world of darkness.

I found a great place for getting a free information, including a Veterans Day poster each year on the internet. There is also a place where you can learn about films that honor the fallen. You may want to use this in the evening following your service, or save it for Memorial Day. And lastly, I found a place that shows videos that celebrates Veterans:  You might be able to save it onto your computer and use it in your service.

This is one of those days that I truly believe is a "must do, and must do right" program that you should have in your retirement community every year. It means so much to so many in your community.

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