Editor’s Note: How Do You Hug A Hero?

Reader's Digest Editor-in-Chief, Liz Vaccariello, on showing gratitude to veterans.

Liz VaccarielloPhotographed by Melanie Dunea/CPILiz Vaccariello

My eyes mist whenever I hear our national anthem. My heart swells during a ball game’s moment of silence for the troops. I feel a tug of guilt and humility when the flight attendant lets “families with small children, our loyal frequent-fliers, and the men and women of our armed forces” board the plane first.

They’re all lovely gestures. Gestures that I’m certain hold meaning for those on active duty and veterans alike. They signal respect. They show gratitude.

But does all the thanking let us off the hook? “You’re Welcome, America. Now Hire Us” tells the job-hunting travails of five veterans. The snapshots of Andrea, Donna, Mark, Eric, and Andrew spotlight, we hope, the unique job-search challenges faced by returning vets. (After years of “yes, sir; no, sir,” how verbal would you be in an interview?)

And yet, as we combed the land for stories of struggle and triumph, we also came across many companies and citizens making gestures of gratitude big and small: A Jacksonville, North Carolina, wedding planner arranged for a vet and his bride to have a free wedding! Author James Patterson donated 200,000 of his books to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Ohio business owner Eric Zimmer turned his HR department on its head: As former Marine Mark Haake’s new boss, Zimmer desires the precise qualities the military has imbued in service members. He seeks out veterans and watches them transform into stellar employees. “It’s our small way of saying thank you for their service,” he says.

Do you know someone who’s showing gratitude in a unique way? Send me a note. I want to applaud them in a future issue.

-Liz, @LizVacc, Liz@rd.com

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