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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  • Your Comments

    • french horn

      I’m a bit diasappointed in the decline of humor in RD the last few months. Your humor sections are pretty weak and barely ignite a smile. Your humor editors need to revisit the real meaning of humor. Also, please stop sending me renewal notices. I’m now paid through July, 2015!

    • Fons D. Thorum

      Liz, while reading the Readers Digest I came across yoyur article. You seem to have a very warm heart. I wrote a book about my wife Annie; ” ANNIE & ME MY MIRACLE ” & if you will be kind enough to send me a mailing addess I would like to send you a copy because I know that you will relate to it. 58 1/2 years of total love & happiness & never had an argument. I collect household & take it to needy families in her honor because she loved children so much. I am 85 & people ask me why I do this & the answerr is simple. Love for my dear Annie. I do hope that you will send me a mailing address.  I would feel honored to have you read about my dear Annie.  Fons Thorum     ft2010@verizon.net 

    • Darryl Hoiem

      Can you stop my getting 2 magazines every month, and put them in just account ?  I am; Darryl Hoiem at       1597 Freedom Dr,  Viera, Fl.  32940.  Thank you…………..