November 11 is an important day in American and world history. Also known as Armistice Day, November 11, 1918 marked the end of World War I, the war to end all wars.

In the United States it’s now known as Veterans Day a holiday meant to honor all those who have served in the military.  For some, it’s another day to post generic “thank you” Veterans Day-themed social messages.  Trust me, local TV stations posted their share of flag photos.

But a few stations actually told compelling Veterans Day stories.  And the ABC owned and operated stations “won” Veterans Day with a story of perseverance, love and surprise.

A veteran who served in Afghanistan pulled off a surprise his wife will never forget — joining her for their first dance as man and wife without the aid of his wheelchair.  Sgt. Joey Johnson, 27, suffered a spinal injury in a motorcycle accident just four months after meeting his future wife in 2012.  … Johnson and his friends were working on a system that would allow to him stand for their first dance.

Johnson suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Afghanistan and rode motorcycles for the rush, according to hi wife Michelle.

The Facebook post (right) from San Francisco ABC station KGO generated more than 514,000 engagements yesterday.  Less than an hour later most of the other ABC O&O major markets posted the story as well.  It was the most engaging post yesterday in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Houston — all posted by an ABC-owned station.  WABC in New York didn’t post the story until late in the day and the post still climbed into the top 5.

The post generated more than 83,000 engagements for WLS in Chicago, more than 47,000 engagements for KTRK in Houston, and more than 45,000 engagements for KABC in Los Angeles.

It’s a heartwarming story that meets all of our checklist criteria for a great post:

Tells an urgent, compelling, inspirational or funny story?
Appeal to emotion?
Use a photo?
Ask for engagement?

Generic thank yous are certainly appropriate. But for a news organization, sharing a touching story about a veteran is a much better way to show thanks and engage your audience.

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