Every day, service members put their lives on the line to protect our country. When they return home as Veterans, they face the challenge of readjusting to civilian life — something that many of us take for granted. It’s important to show how thankful we are for their sacrifices. Here are some ideas for expressing appreciation and helping Veterans in simple and unique ways.
Let Them Know You Care
Care packages aren’t just for those currently deployed; they can go a long way in helping veterans feel that they’re not forgotten. Put one together and fill it with practical items that they will appreciate and use for their day-to-day activities. You can add books, music and movies that they might enjoy. Another thoughtful gesture is to make a home-cooked meal. Add a personal touch in the form of a heartfelt card or letter of thanks. More than the material things you share with them, these hold more value simply because they show how much you care.
Share Your Skills and Time
No matter what your age or skill level, there are so many different ways to volunteer. Think about what you have to offer and what you enjoy doing, and you’re sure to find a place to be helpful while showing your appreciation. You may want to consider helping to organize recreational programs or interacting directly with patients in medical centers or hospitals. If you own a car, you could get involved in transportation networks, where volunteers provide much-needed transportation to Veterans receiving treatment at medical facilities. Other opportunities include helping out at a food pantry, assisting in fundraising events, accomplishing daily chores and errands for Veterans and much more.
Donate Your Miles and Points
Being able to spend time with family is a privilege civilians often take for granted. Help reunite veterans with their loved ones in their time of need by donating your frequent flyer miles. Many airlines and organizations work together to bring families of recuperating soldiers to their side, or bring veterans home for special events. You can also donate your accumulated hotel points and enable families to stay at hotels near medical centers at no cost.
Help Their Support Systems
Like anyone else, Veterans rely heavily on family and friends for encouragement and assistance in overcoming their problems. More often than not, these people struggle with their own challenges, but still do their best to help. Many families experience financial difficulties as their loved ones struggle to integrate and gain employment, while others have incurred medical expenses by treating a Service-member’s medical condition. There are also those who have devoted so much of their time helping out their family member or friend that their own needs have been neglected.
Reach out and donate directly to families you know are in need, or through the many groups that have been formed to provide assistance.
Support systems also include government agencies and organizations that exist to help out our Veterans, so you may want to consider donating and volunteering for these agencies as well.
Support Medical Research
Arguably the biggest challenge for Veterans is their integration back into society. Many of these Veterans come home facing post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other medical concerns. There is substantial research being done on how to address these issues, and to provide long-term solutions. Supporting this research by donating to organizations and giving your time and skills helps more Veterans in the long run, and will prove invaluable in the years to come.
Take the time to attend local events, like parades and rallies, held in honor of our Veterans. It may not seem like much, but being present at these occasions serves as a reminder to Veterans that we know what they have done for our country and that we appreciate their sacrifices.
Hire a Veteran
One of the best ways to help out Veterans is to provide them with employment. Not only are you offering them a means to support themselves financially, you are also giving them a much-needed self-esteem boost. Many Veterans return from deployment feeling lost, not knowing what their place in society will be, and a job offers a chance at stability, as well as a feeling of security in knowing that they still have an important role to play.
Veterans have sacrificed so much to keep our country safe by putting their lives on the line. However, they struggle to enjoy the rights and privileges that many civilians continue to enjoy as a result of their efforts. Let us all do our part to give back to those who have so selflessly given of themselves with this year’s #VASummerofService.
Dan Hauser is a Marine Corps Veteran. He served for nearly eight years as an Aviation Officer and then left active duty to pursue a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Southern California. He now works for GE Aviation in their Junior Officer Leadership Program for veterans. Dan also pursues opportunities to raise awareness of Veterans’ situations, including a recent collaboration to develop this infographic on Veterans in 2015.