Veterans deserve to be praised for their years of service to our country -- a selfless, admirable feat that should never go unnoticed. And not only on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Businesses know this and countless companies offer military and veteran discounts. Military families, too, can benefit and reap the rewards for their own sacrifices.
Check individual stores, visit websites and call ahead, as discounts vary by date and location. You also may need to show different forms of ID, depending on the store.
Veterans should look into joining Veterans Advantage, a national program that partners with corporations to make discounts available to vets, and USAA, a member-owned company that offers vets and military members banking/insurance/investment services, to take advantage of many discounts offered to members of these organizations.
No matter where you are, it doesn't hurt to ask if a veteran discount is offered. Whether official protocol or not, employees love to give veterans a break.
Restaurants of all kinds are glad to support veterans by providing discounted dining. Sit-down chains including Applebee's, IHOP, Cracker Barrel and Longhorn Steakhouse are among the hundreds of restaurants that offer military and veteran discounts, some up to 20 percent. Fast-food restaurants such as Wendy's, Golden Corral, Arby's, Chick-fil-A and Zaxby's also provide discounts. Even America's favorite sub shops, Subway and Quiznos, provide a markdown for veterans.
On Veteran's Day, most of these restaurants will give things away for free. For example, for the past four years, Applebee's has given a free meal to veterans and active-duty military members and Subway restaurants have given away free 6-inch subs to veterans.
Love your morning cup of Joe? At many Dunkin' Donuts locations, military members can save 10 percent.
Next time you need a little retail therapy visit Nine West (10 percent off), Finish Line (20 percent), New York & Company (15 percent), Express (10 percent) or American Eagle (10 percent). They make saving money easy by providing discounts for military members, vets and sometimes even their families.
Online shopping destinations, such as Overstock, are excellent resources for marked-down goods, but with a veteran's discount, you will receive an even bigger deal. Last year on Veteran's Day, the site offered 11 percent off shoppers' purchases, but veterans can save every day.
Lowe's and Home Depot make home improvement easier and more affordable for vets with 10 to 15 percent off at checkout.
Talk to your local car dealer -- many major car companies help veterans to save big. General Motors claims to offer the best military discount, allowing active or retired military personnel to save an average of $750.
After you purchase that new car, save on required oil changes and tune ups at Jiffy Lube and Advance Autoparts. Both will give vets 10 percent off.
Transportation is a large cost when it comes to planning a trip. Save on the train, plane or bus fare. Call Amtrak (15 percent savings with a Veterans Advantage membership card) or Southwest to check their veteran deals, which will vary depending on travel dates and destination. Car rentals are also cheaper for Veterans Advantage members at Avis and Budget. USAA members receive 25 percent discounts with Hertz.
Travel websites, such as Expedia and Travelocity offer discounted rates to certain destinations -- kind of like coupons that can be used up until a certain date.
Looking to book a vacation? Read our tips on 7 Super Savings Vacations for Military Families. »
Lay your head to rest in the comfort of a lavish hotel at a fraction of the usual price. Choice Hotels and Nickelodeon hotels are among the major chains that provide savings for the military and their families.
Don't let a strict budget stop you from venturing out on the weekend to have a little fun. Visit a movie theater that honors veterans, like United Artist Theatres, which offers matinee prices for all show times. Feel like staying in? Readers and movie-watchers may find savings at Barnes & Noble and Blockbuster. Discounts vary by location, so bring your veterans card.
Many major sporting events give 10- to 20-percent off regular ticket prices. Check out the 2012 MLB discounts here. Into football? Each November, the NFL runs its "Salute to Service" campaign and teams donate hundreds of tickets to be given to military members and veterans. Also be sure to take a look at Veteran Tickets Foundation, a nonprofit that allows people to donate event tickets, gift certificates and cash to be used by vets across the country.
If it's time to book your next getaway, think about a luxury cruise for less. Check out Carnival and My Cruise Club before setting sail. USAA offers free resort stays with qualifying cruise purchases.
Aquariums, zoos and museums often provide military and veterans with discounted admission. For example, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City offers free general admission to military members and veterans. Check with your local museums to see what kind of discounts they offer.
In addition to museums and aquariums, most local amusement parks offer discount for veterans as well. This has the power to save you a bundle on large family trips and long-awaited reunions.
Nonprofit programs and organizations -- even gyms -- offer discounted memberships. These provide not only money-saving resources, but also support. IAVA, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, is a popular organization. Membership is free in this group, which hopes to empower the newest generation of veterans and improve the lives of vets and their families.
H&R Block and Turbo Tax both offer discounts to vets, like free filing and 10 percent discounts. Redeem a discount on the reputable software, or have your taxes done at an on-base H&R Block to take advantage of the chain's discounts.
The number of schools offering military discounts on tuition is growing, particularly for online classes. Recent changes in legislation will affect fees, so do your research. Under the updated G.I. Bill, post 9/11, those serving in the military receive money toward their education and housing after completion of their service. The bill covers 36 months of school aid. All individuals must have an honorable discharge. Money aside, being a veteran has its perks in other ways. A number of states, including West Virginia and Colorado, award school credit for time spent in action. Also, skip the lines when enrolling because schools in states like California and Tennessee grant priority enrollment for veterans.
Manufacturers such as Apple, Dell and HP all offer discounts to active military and veterans and have military/government employee purchase plans.
Work with your cell phone service provider to apply a military discount to your account. Verizon, AT&T and Sprint are just a few of the providers that offer them. Verizon offers a 15 percent discount on certain calling plans and a 25 percent discount on accessories, AT&T offers a 14 percent discount for a primary line and Nextel offers 15 percent off services.
USAA, Geico and Century 21 will offer veterans more reasonably priced premiums. USAA says its members save an average of $450 per year with their auto insurance.
The USO isn't just the group that sends celebrities to bases worldwide to keep service members entertained. It does so much more. From hosting events to support families and service members after deployment and providing free Girl Scout cookies to troops if they stop by at the airport, the USO does it all. Too few service members take time to stop by the USO, but there you can find free Wi-Fi, snacks and helpful connections.
This is just a sampling of what's available. Conduct online searches, make phone calls and create an ongoing list of establishments who will honor veterans with discounts.
Kelly Johnston is a freelance writer living in Washington D.C. Her work can be found here.