Although Veterans Day is a public holiday, it is business as usual for many organizations. Several associations offer recommendations on how to commemorate the day, from advocating for a paid holiday to celebrating it on the job.
Should employers recognize Veterans Day by giving their employees the day off?
Tabitha Arnett, CAE, executive director of the Indiana Psychological Association, thinks so.
In 2013, when Arnett stepped into the executive director role, she requested that IPA change the policy in order to offer Veterans Day as a paid holiday.
“Our U.S. veterans have sacrificed so much for our freedom, including the freedom to pursue our associations’ missions—whatever those may be,” Arnett said. “Including Veterans Day as a paid day off allows staff to reflect on our freedom and the veterans who made our freedom possible.”
Arnett hopes that other associations will follow suit.
“My dream benefit for all associations would be to include Veterans Day as a paid holiday if they can afford to close the office for one more day,” she said. “Having Veterans Day off allows staff to celebrate with their friends and family who may be veterans, including participating in parades or other activities in communities throughout the nation.”
According to a Society for Human Resource Management study, there are six main holidays that organizations generally recognize with paid days off: Christmas, Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, New Year’s Day, and Thanksgiving. According to SHRM, only 22 percent of organizations offer Veterans Day as a paid holiday.
“We don’t think of veterans as ‘volunteers,’ but they are very much like our associations’ volunteers,” Arnett said. “They have volunteered to serve our country, sacrificed time with family, put peers first, traveled the world, and risked their health and life. We may never truly know the spirit of volunteerism and dedication within our association if we cannot see our U.S. veterans among the greatest volunteers of our lifetime.”
Last year, Tyler Gately, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a member of the nonprofit Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America, started a Change.org petition for employers to recognize Veterans Day that earned close to 30,000 supporters.
“When I started a job that didn’t celebrate Veterans Day, I was taken aback,” Gately said in the petition. “Vets Day was the one day a year that I could regain that feeling of veteran fellowship I took for granted while I was in the Army. And I decided to do whatever it took to celebrate the day properly with my brothers and sisters who served.”
Whether or not employees have off on November 11, Joyce Wessel Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association, said that it’s important for them to find a way to commemorate it.
“We were founded by military spouses, so we made the decision early on that we were going to follow the Federal holiday schedule because we were married to people in the military who had off,” Raezer said. “The important thing is that all Americans find a way to recognize Veterans Day.”
For example, schools might honor veterans by hosting Veterans Day activities or having a veteran come in and speak, Raezer said, while organizations may arrange a service project that benefits a veterans hospital.
“We would hope, whether [organizations] give the day off or not that they’re honoring veterans,” Raezer said.