Even though we do our best to carry grateful, patriotic hearts throughout the year, November 11th is the day we've set aside to thank and honor the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
John F. Kennedy once said, "as we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words but to live by them."
For troops serving far from home at overseas military installations, it's up to us - the spouses, children and civilian workers - to find ways to express our gratitude and let our service members know how deeply we appreciate their hard work and sacrifices.
If you'll be celebrating Veteran's Day overseas this year, consider incorporating one of these five activities into your holiday plans.
Attend a Veteran's Day ceremony at an overseas American Battle Monument
On November 11th each year, the American Battle Monument Commission (ABMC) honors veterans by hosting ceremonies at U.S. memorial sites and cemeteries around the world. Attendance is open to the public and free of charge. Find a Veteran's Day event near your OCONUS duty station.
Shake an overseas retiree's hand
A large number of U.S. military personnel remain in foreign countries long after retirement. Many of these veterans were shunned for their service in wars of generations past, and it is up to us to give them the appreciation they deserve. If you don't know an overseas retiree personally, take a look around your local military community; you'll find them among the baggers at the commissary, walking the halls at military medical facilities and mixed in among the civilian workers on base. A heartfelt handshake is simple way to let them know their service will never be forgotten.
Host an American-style cookout for single soldiers
Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Whether or not you plan to be traveling on Turkey Day, consider taking advantage of this holiday to prepare a traditional American feast as a way to say "thank you" to the soldiers who are stationed overseas without the support of family members. Home-cooked meals are a balm to the soul for service members who spend most of mealtimes in military dining facilities.
Participate in an Armistice Day commemoration event
Before November 11th became the official holiday for honoring U.S. Veterans, it was first recognized as Armistice Day - a time to remember the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when the armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect at the end of World War I. Today, many countries still honor Armistice Day with special ceremonies and events that overseas military families have the unique opportunity to attend. For example, in Paris, visitors are able to observe a military parade and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe. Attending this kind of event is a wonderful way to deepen our understanding of and appreciation for our troops' part in the global military mission.
Deliver handmade thank you cards to troops on duty
A service member's job is never done. While many troops get the holiday off to rest and spend time with their families, it's just another day for certain workers. If you're feeling creative, get out the crafts supplies and make handmade thank you cards to deliver to the gate guards, on-call medical personnel and military police who are holding down the fort.
The overseas military community is extremely close knit, because – well, we have to be. Without our countrymen and women there to support our efforts, we know we must come together to show our veterans how much we appreciate the work they have done and continue to do for all of us every day.
Are you currently stationed overseas? How do you plan to celebrate Veteran's Day this year?
Courtney Woodruff, of Courtney at Home, is a military spouse, mom and writer currently living in Germany. She has a master's degree in Human Services Counseling: Military Resilience and currently serves as the International Military Life Blogger and Community Manager for USAA. She has a heart for our troops and their families and strives to share her own experience to help others overcome the unique challenges of military life. Follow her adventures on her blog, or connect with her Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.