Thought Leadership

6 questions to spark meaningful conversations with veterans



Today, on this Veterans Day, we honor U.S. military veterans, especially those among us here at Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) — employees as well as the people we serve.

In support of their wellness, we paused to consider: how can we honor the day as a team and help veterans feel recognized, special and loved?

As former Secretary of State and Four-Star General Colin Powell said in a speech, “Vets don’t want sympathy; they want to be acknowledged for their sacrifice and their work ~ just like anyone else.”

Veterans Day photo
James Charles, US Navy, and Ruth Rosen, US Army Nurse Corps, neighbors at Lake Minnetonka Shores.

So, in addition to celebrations at some PHS communities, we encourage sparking meaningful conversations with veterans.

Need a little help? Here are six questions to choose from!

  • What branch of the military did you serve in?
  • Why did you choose to go into the service branch you did?
  • What did you do in the military?
  • How long did you serve?
  • What was your favorite moment?
  • Did anyone else in your family serve?



Keep in mind, personal questions about someone’s service have the potential to be painful for some, so show sensitivity to those who would prefer not to share. Simply be supportive without being intrusive.

Finally, to all veterans, we thank you for your service.

The origins of Veterans Day
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as “the Great War.” President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11, 1921 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. November 11 became a federal holiday by act of the US congress in 1938. In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Congress amended the act in 1954 and Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.

Links to Veteran Stories

Operation September Freedom: WWII heroes take flight in restored biplanes
Thirty-two WWII veterans who live in 16 Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) communities were all smiles and ‘thumbs up’ as they took off on “Dream Flights.” They were participating in Operation September Freedom, a national effort to honor as many World War II veterans as possible with free Dream Flights in restored, open-cockpit WWII-era biplanes during the months of August and September.

Harlan’s Quilt of Valor
Harlan Riedesel, a resident at Folkestone in Wayzata, MN, was awarded a Quilt of Valor for his service in the Army Air Corps (now the Air Force) from 1942 to 1946. Members of the Folkestone community, Optage staff, and Harlan’s family attended the special presentation.

Honoring our brave on Veterans Day 2020
Veterans Day is all about recognizing and thanking the veterans who are still with us such as Don Peterson, a veteran and Purple Heart recipient who lives at Fairway Knoll in Germantown, WI.

Two veterans meet in a moment of honor
Tom, a Navy veteran who served in the Korean War, formally honors his fellow veterans who, like Dan, are in hospice care. By joining up with Optage Hospice, he spreads a ministry called No Greater Love Honoring Our Vets. Learn more.

Signatures of honor
World War II veterans who live at Waverly Gardens were honored in October 2019. Each veteran signed his or her name on the wings of a model plane built to replicate the B-25 bomber, a.k.a. “Miss Mitchell.” Fox 9 News was there to cover the story.

A veteran’s story
We salute Dick Geiger on Veterans Day 2018, resident of Orchard Path in Apple Valley, MN, who volunteers with Beyond a Yellow Ribbon to assist military service members, veterans and their families. He believes that all active service members and veterans should be remembered.



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