It’s important to support men and women who have sacrificed part of their lives to serve their country. When returning to normal life, veterans may face a number of emotional, physical, and financial difficulties. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can help our veterans. From providing them with the recognition they deserve to donating both your abilities and resources, you can help make their life better.
EditRecognizing Their Sacrifice and Service
- Thank a veteran. When you meet with a veteran you know, or you meet a veteran for the first time, offer a heartfelt word of thanks. You’d be surprised how far a simple “thank you” can go. A number of veterans never hear it. A simple word of support shows them that they are noticed and appreciated.
- Remember holidays that honor veterans. Show your appreciation for veterans on these days. Holidays like Veterans Day and Memorial Day are popular for honoring those who have served in the military, but there are other lesser-known dates–some that correspond to particular service positions–that you may not be aware of. Here are just a few:
- Vietnam Veterans Day honors those who served during the Vietnam War.
- Silver Star Service Banner Day honors wounded service personnel.
- Armed Forces Day honors those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
- POW/MIA Recognition Day honors those who were captured or imprisoned during their service.
- Gold Star Wives Day honors those who lost loved ones in the line of duty.
- Pick up a veteran’s tab. The next time you see a veteran waiting in line to pay for their drink or meal, offer to buy it for them, or do it anonymously. Anyone would appreciate the gift of having their coffee, dinner, gas, prescription, or even groceries paid for.
- Listen to and share their stories. Many veterans’ stories will go unheard or untold. Lending an ear to a veteran in your neighborhood can be a good showing of community support. Organizations like The Veterans History Project collect stories and archive them in the Library of Congress. Offer to interview a veteran so that their story can reach a wider audience.
- Write a letter to a veteran. Writing a heartfelt letter to a veteran is a good way to show your appreciation and is one of the most cherished contributions. This is an especially good option if you don’t know any veterans in your immediate area.
- Organizations like Operation Gratitude will help put you in touch with those who could use your support. They will also allow you to put together and send care packages.
EditLending a Helping Hand
- Give a veteran a ride. Many veterans with disabilities incurred during their time in service can’t drive and are in need of help getting from place to place. Ask them if they need a ride to the supermarket or to an appointment, for example.
- If you can offer a ride, but don’t know a veteran, contact The Department of Veterans Affairs (DAV) Transportation Network and they will pair you with someone.
- Foster or train a companion or service animal. Many veterans are in need of companion or service animals to cope with physical and mental disabilities. You can help foster or train service animals that will help reduce veterans’ physical and mental stress.
- Reach out to organizations like Pets for Vets to find out how you can help pair veterans with therapy animals.
- Contact a group like Patriot PAWS to volunteer raising service dogs for disabled veterans.
- You can also support military working dogs by purchasing pet food and treats from companies that donate money to assist the dogs after they retire.
- Deliver meals or groceries to a veteran. Some veterans have trouble performing everyday activities like shopping for groceries or making meals. They may be unable to drive or navigate a store. Help them out by volunteering to deliver food.
- If you can’t schedule time to deliver food to veterans, you can point them to grocery or meal delivery services such as Meals on Wheels or the various transportation services provided by the Disabled Veterans National Foundation.
EditVolunteering Your Time and Skills
- Join or start a community support organization for veterans. Government financial support can only go so far, so many veterans rely on help from community-based centers. Check if there’s one in your area; if not, consider starting one.
- Try raising funds through already established community organizations you are a part of, like your church, school, or civic/business group.
- Try expanding your reach by advertising your cause to local media outlets.
- Ask local businesses if they will donate to your cause or match contributions.
- Volunteer at a hospital. Spend a few hours visiting wounded and recovering veterans. VA hospitals often welcome volunteers to help out with recreational activities, or just to provide companionship.
- Volunteer to help build homes. Organizations like Building Homes for Heroes help build or modify homes for wounded veterans. The houses are given to veterans and their families at no cost.
- You don’t need to know how to build a house. They’ll also need help with painting, carpentry, plumbing, wiring, and other services that complete a house.
- Organize or volunteer for a Stand Down event. Stand Down events are organized by volunteers who spend 2-3 days providing homeless veterans access to healthcare, hygiene services, food, and clothing, as well as housing, employment, and counseling referrals.
EditDonating to Local and National Causes
- Support emergency shelters in your area. You can donate money, but shelters are also always in need of clothing, personal hygiene products, or non-perishable food items. Look for things that you no longer have a use for or have too many of and consider donating them to veterans in need.
- Donate your old electronics. Some organizations, like Cell Phones for Soldiers or Veterans Advantage Recycle and Reward program, will refurbish your old, unused electronics to raise funds for veterans or provide them with better access to updated technology.
- Give to a non-profit charitable organization. Charitable organizations can’t support services for veterans in need without monetary donations. There are many organizations who will gladly accept your contribution. Here are some of the most well-known ones:
- Disabled American Veterans: This organization provides guides disabled veterans toward resources such as disability assistance, pensions, and job programs.
- Wounded Warrior Project: They provide wounded veterans with rehabilitation and career counseling.
- U.S. Vets: This organization provides veterans with the mental and practical tools they need to reintegrate into society following their service.
- Contact the Local Veteran Assistance Assistance Programs if you don’t know where to start or how to find a veteran. They will put you in touch with who needs help.
- Many organizations that accept monetary donations are also in need of volunteers. Don’t feel powerless if you don’t have a big budget. Contact them and find out how you can help.
- If you see a veteran in immediate need and don’t know how to help, contact the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and ask how they–or you–can help.