Here’s how to connect with former service members to alleviate stress and loneliness.

Holidays can be a difficult time for many Veterans. The flurry of expectations many women feel during holidays can cause stress or feelings of loneliness. This is especially true for Veterans who may be separated from friends and family due to distance or COVID-19.

Many Veterans also miss the camaraderie and kinship they felt during service. Or they may find it difficult to relate to those outside the military.

Creating a new community of Veterans or reconnecting with former service members can help ward off loneliness, stress and anxiety, and provide a sense of purpose.

Here are ways you can create community this holiday season:

  1. Schedule a video call with a Veteran friend. If you aren’t in contact with any of your former military buddies, you can build new relationships through Women Veterans Network (WoVeN), an online social network for women Veterans. Or you may find fellow Veterans through RallyPoint, a digital platform for the military and Veteran community and their supporters.
  2. Host a virtual dinner over Zoom. Meet other Veterans through one of Wounded Warrior Project’s 48 peer support groups and eat dinner together to “share” your favorite holiday traditions.
  3. Connect with other Veterans to create a community

    Create your community for a more hopeful, healthy holiday.

    Volunteer! The holidays provide many volunteer opportunities. You might try The Mission Continues, which deploys Veteran volunteers to continue their service within their local communities, or join the Marine Corps League’s local efforts to support the well-regarded Toys for Tots.

  4. Start an online or in-person book club. Perhaps begin with a warm-hearted story like the “Gift of the Magi,” a sentimental story by O. Henry about the challenges of secret gift-giving. Or “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse,” a short book about friendship and kindness by Charlie Mackesy.

Online games or virtual workout with other Veterans

  1. Play online games with friends or newly met Veterans. Try Words with Friends 2 or any number of card games, which you can use for free.
  2. Schedule an online or in-person workout with other Veterans. Team Red, White and Blue offers virtual workouts, including runs, rucking and yoga, as well as many local in-person events with their chapters across the country.
  3. Be one of the growing number of women Veterans who are joining  local American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars, which hold social and service events.
  4. Find a social media discussion group. Groups vary from shared interests such as gardening or birdwatching to health, faith, politics, and Veteran groups for women, era, or branch.

Here’s how to have an online movie watch party

  1. Organize an online watch party of your favorite sport or holiday movie. Here’s a how-to guide on how to do this through several free or low-cost online platforms or apps. If your Veteran friends are local, you can host an in-person watch party. Ask everyone to bring their favorite movie theater treat.
  2. Join or start a trivia club online or at a local restaurant. This step-by-step guide can help if you would like to host your own event.
  3. Connect with other Veterans for moral support or to share memories of your service. Find and connect with people you served with through the Together We Served Veterans Roll of Honor website or its new ‘Veteran Finder’ app, which offers access to a comprehensive directory of all 2.1 million Veteran members who’ve registered their information.
  4. Gather a group of Veterans you’ve connected with to lay holiday wreaths at one of more than 2,500 military cemeteries with Wreath’s Across America. Or contact a military cemetery in your area. You can help remove wreaths in January during a Wreaths Out event, which has a higher need for volunteers.

List of organizations that support Veterans

These are just a few ways Veterans can connect with each other. Many Veteran organizations provide opportunities for Veterans to unite with each other through online and in-person peer support groups, social networking events and volunteer activities.

A brief list of national organizations that support all Veterans is featured on the Women’s Health website.

This is not a comprehensive list of all Veteran organizations. It’s a short list of organizations that have a particular focus on social connections for Veterans and that operate across the country. Many locally based Veteran organizations also provide opportunities for social connections.

Create your community for a more hopeful, healthy holiday.

The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products or services on the part of VA.

By Dr. Patricia Hayes is chief officer for VA Women’s Health

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Published on Dec. 6, 2021

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