There are around 19 million veterans in the United States, and, unfortunately, this number represents one of our largest underserved populations. Many veterans struggle to find work, suffer from poor physical or mental health, and have difficulty adapting to normal life again. We can do better to support veterans in our communities. Here are some easy ways that you can help.
Donate to Charities that Help Veterans
There are a number of non-profit organizations dedicated to helping veterans and their families. By donating to these organizations, you can help veterans across the country.
Here are just a few charities that help veterans:
- Hope for the Warriors
- Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
- United Service Organizations (USO)
- Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
- Wounded Warriors Family Support
- Puppies Behind Bars
- Homes for Our Troops (HFOT)
- Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust
- Thanks USA
- Fisher House Foundation
- K9s for Warriors
- Semper Fi & America’s Fund
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)
- Gary Sinise Foundation
- Bob Woodruff Family Foundation
Whenever you donate to a charity, do your research to make sure the charity aligns with your values and goals. You may also want to check to see what percentage of donations is used to directly help veterans and their families.
Volunteer at a Veteran Organization
Some of the organizations above also have volunteer opportunities to help keep their costs down. So you can also offer your time and talents to help veterans. Organizations may need help with anything from office tasks, like answering the phones, to larger projects, like helping build a home. You can also reach out to your local VA to see if there is anything you can help with.
Not only can volunteering help veterans, but it’s also a great way to get involved and make connections with other individuals with similar goals and values.
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Write a Thank You Note
If there are any veterans in your life, take a few minutes to write them a note. You can thank them for their military service and the sacrifice that came with it. This simple act can brighten a veteran’s day and provide them with a pick-me-up in the future. You can also write notes to veterans and active military personnel through Operation Gratitude if you don’t know any veterans personally or just want to spread even more kindness.
The best part about this idea is that you can involve everyone in your family. Even young children can draw a picture for a military veteran. While letters and drawings don’t take much time or effort, they can become a cherished item for the recipient.
Visit with Veterans
Another way to give back to veterans is to spend quality time with them. Many veterans feel socially isolated, and talking with them can help them feel valued and heard. Through conversation, veterans can share their stories and process what they experienced.
However, you might worry about saying the wrong thing or asking the wrong question. There are some topics and questions that you should always avoid, like “Did you kill anyone?” or “What was the worst thing you saw?” You never want to purposefully encourage a veteran to reflect on their most difficult experiences. Politics can also be a touchy subject.
Here are some ideas of topics you can talk about that can result in a positive conversation.
- Why did you choose to join the military?
- What was your job in the military?
- What was the most rewarding part of your time in the military?
- What do you do now?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- What was the most important thing you learned in the military?
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Be Aware of Veteran Resources
As you have conversations with veterans, you may discover some of their needs, and you can point them in the right direction for assistance. Veterans may not know where they can turn for help, or they might have a hard time asking for help. With your gentle and loving guidance, you can help connect veterans with appropriate resources.
Review the list of veteran resources by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Point them to the nearest VA facility. You can also encourage a veteran to reach out to the charities listed above, depending on the type of assistance they need.
Is there an elderly or disabled vet in your neighborhood that needs help cutting grass? A veteran at church who needs a hand painting their home?
You can help local veterans by performing small acts of service. You could cook a meal, help clean the home, or do yard work, just to name a few examples of service. If you have any special talents, like IT skills or tax preparation, you could offer your services for free.
Many veterans feel embarrassed asking for help and want to be as independent as possible. So, it may be on you to help identify a need and make an offer rather than simply asking what you can do to help.
At Caring Senior Service, we help veterans through one-on-one caregiving. We also provide franchising opportunities to give veterans career options after the military. To learn more about how we help veterans in the communities we serve, reach out to your local office.