Although Waterloo, New York, is the official birthplace of Memorial Day, its actual beginnings are fairly difficult to trace. Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday dates back to the pre-Civil War era. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by General John Logan and was first observed on May 30 of that same year, when flowers were placed on the graves of soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
Whatever you call it and whenever it began, the idea remains the same: to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this country. Yet over the years, Memorial Day has unfortunately come to represent the unofficial beginning of summer more than the remembrance of those veterans who paid the ultimate price. However, the good news is this is starting to change. In that vein, let’s look at some of the ways a person, business or community can honor local service men and women, veterans and their families this Memorial Day.
Discounts: Lots of national businesses honor the military by giving them daily discounts, and then boosting those offers on Memorial and Veterans Day. From Famous Dave’s to Chipotle to Quiznos, plenty of places will give military members a price break - all you need to do is ask and show proper ID. It doesn’t stop with restaurants either. For instance, Home Depot offers active duty personnel and retired military a 10 percent discount off of purchases as well.
Can you do the same? You bet. No matter your business, an easy way to honor those who have served is to create a military discount program, and then advertise it.
Hire a vet: We have all heard a lot about the high unemployment rates the past few years, but those numbers are nothing compared to unemployment rates among veterans. For veterans between 18 and 24 years of age, the unemployment rate last year was over 20 percent. For those aged 25 to 34, the unemployment rate was still in the double digits.
And the irony is vets tend to make great employees because:
- They take direction well
- They are no strangers to hard work and discipline
- They bring unique leadership skills
- They know how to work as a team
So one of the best things you can do to show your appreciation for our military is to hire a veteran.
Become a mentor: Not surprisingly, aside from making terrific employees, vets also make darned good entrepreneurs for many of the same reasons. It is espehttp://whitman.syr.edu/ebv/cially true that veterans fit into the franchisee mold especially well, since following and implementing a plan is what they were trained to do.
But whether you coach them to be franchisees or independent small businesspeople, there is no doubt that entrepreneurial veterans could use your help. If this is of interest to you, you can mentor them on your own, or you can volunteer through organizations like:
Hire a veteran vendor: Another way to provide a boost to the local economy, a local business and those who served is to do business with certified veteran-owned businesses as part of your vendor pipeline. What a great, tangible way to say thank you.
Bottom line: Giving back to the veteran business community is a wonderful way to thank the men and women who have given us so much.
How do you plan to honor your local service men and women? Please share your story below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss