By T.T. Robinson

5 ways military families can observe Patriot Day

There are dates in our nation’s history, which, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt put it best, will live in infamy. The events etched in our hearts, seared in our minds, inscribed forever in our history books.

Pearl Harbor.

The assassination of President Kennedy.

The Challenger explosion.

And for our generation, September 11, 2001.

If you were born before 1995, you know exactly where you were when the Towers fell. You can close your eyes and still see the images of the Pentagon burning, the confusion at the crash site in Pennsylvania, and the horror at Ground Zero in New York City. Whether you were in the midst of the chaos, sitting in a classroom, serving overseas, or in my case, watching the events unfold on television at my grandmother’s house just days after my grandfather died, you know what you were doing. And if you think about it long enough, you’ll remember exactly how you felt.

I remember President Bush’s speech like it was yesterday:

“Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, business men and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge — huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.”

Our nation’s collective feelings in that moment and in the days after, is what led to the creation of Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance. The day is meant to honor the nearly 3,000 victims of the 9/11 tragedies by joining together to better our nation.

How can you observe the day and honor the fallen? Visit to find volunteer opportunities and service activities near you. Whether you join in an official event or start your own, MOC presents 5 ways to volunteer on Patriot and National Day of Service and Remembrance:

1. Donate blood

In the aftermath of any disaster, blood is a scarce and critical resource. Visit to find a place to donate near you.

2. Get crafty

Operation Gratitude is putting together First Responder kits for our emergency personnel to effectively respond to a man-made or natural disaster. On their wish list is handmade “survival” paracord bracelets. Gather your crew and your crafts and start braiding. For more information, click here.

3. Spread some local love

The entire nation mourned alongside the New York Police and Fire Departments. Order a pizza or take in donuts to your local first responders to thank them for their service and remember the brave brothers and sisters they lost that day. Pick up the tab if you see a first responder eating lunch. Have your kids make cards, write a letter, and hand deliver it to your local ladder or precinct. Never underestimate the power of what you think is a small gesture.

4. Write letters

If you can’t make it out to a local event, consider taking some time to write letters to our deployed service members. So many of our men and women serving overseas aren’t getting mail from a spouse or children, parents or friends. Send them a note thanking them for their service and what freedom means to you. Click here for opportunities to correspond with our troops.

5. Find a memorial near you

There are 9/11 memorials throughout the country. Visit one near you, clean it up, and engage with your community by attending an event. To find a memorial near you, click here.

In his 2013 Presidential Proclamation for Patriot Day and National Day of Remembrance, President Obama said,

“Today, we can honor those we lost by building a Nation worthy of their memories. Let us also live up to the selfless example of the heroes who gave of themselves in the face of such great evil… I invite all Americans to observe a National Day of Service and Remembrance by uniting in the same extraordinary way we came together after the attacks. Like the Americans who chose compassion when confronted with cruelty, we can show our love for one another by devoting our time and talents to those in need.”

9/11 quote

Whether you plant a tree in your yard, serve dinner at a food kitchen, donate money to our wounded warriors, there is no wrong way to commemorate Patriot Day, except by not acknowledging it. Know the names of the victims. Read the stories of survivors. Honor all of those we lost on 9/11 by living and by serving.

Military Spouse Appreciation DayT. T. Robinson is a proud Navy wife, writer, and crisis management consultant – a skill that proves useful as the mother of two young children. She is the author of the New York Times Deployment Diary, managing editor for SpouseBuzz, and political correspondent for NextGen MilSpouse.