9 Ways to Support Veterans This Holiday Season
Posted in Uncategorized on December 12, 2017
As the giving season approaches, there’s no better time to reach out and support veterans as a sign of appreciation and gratitude for their sacrifices and service. The good news is that there are numerous opportunities to give back in your own community, and most only require your energy and time.
Here are nine easy and meaningful ways to honor the military community and support veterans this holiday season:
1. Deliver a hot meal.
Limited budgets, isolation and difficulty with transportation can all add up to create a food shortage in the homes of elderly veterans. Organizations like Meals on Wheels supports 5,000 community-based senior nutrition programs across the country, utilizing more than 2 million volunteers to deliver nutritious meals, make friendly visits and conduct safety checks to enable America’s seniors to live independently. Some chapters have specific veterans services, but with more than 9.5 million veterans over the age of 65, you are bound to encounter many who have served while volunteering.
2. Give in honor of veterans or service members.
If you’re struggling to find a perfect gift for someone in your life, consider donating in his or her name to a reputable military or veteran charity (see our tips for finding a reputable military charity). Whether you want to help the homeless, the injured or veterans from a specific conflict, you can support veterans by choosing a cause that resonates with you, or that your loved one truly cares about. Most organizations will provide you with receipts or special letters that can be given in a Christmas card to your recipient. Additionally, you can browse the online USO Wishbook to select gifts most wanted by deployed service members, like comfort food packages, long distance bedtime stories, phone calls home and technology to connect.
3. Help around your own neighborhood.
As the population of U.S. veterans age – and more veterans from more recent conflicts are returning home with life-changing injuries – there is most likely a good opportunity in your own neighborhood or community to assist a veteran in small but meaningful ways. Whether it’s helping hang Christmas lights, mowing a yard or helping with a simple repair, a small gesture might make a big difference for someone with physical limitations. Be sure to respect their privacy and wishes, but offering to help is a great way to show your gratitude and support.
4. Help fight veteran homelessness.
More than 39,000 veterans are estimated to be on the streets on any given night this holiday season. It may seem overwhelming, but there are practical ways you can help support veterans, such as participating in a local Stand Down, a multiple day event that brings numerous resources to a central location to make them more accessible to homeless veterans. Basic needs are met through provision of clothing, hot food and mental and physical health care. Additionally benefit claims processing, childcare services, job counseling, legal assistance and referrals are often provided by community and government partners.
5. Lay a wreath at a veteran’s grave.
Through the organization, Wreaths Across America, you can volunteer your time or donate funds to the effort of placing wreaths on headstones in veteran cemeteries across the nation. Dec. 16, 2017 is National Wreaths Across America Day and was established to “Remember, Honor and Teach” through wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and more than 1,2000 other locations in all U.S. states, at sea and abroad. With an easy-to-use search page, you can find the location closest to you and connect with local organizers.
6. Offer to drive to an appointment.
Organizations like the Disabled Veterans of America rely on volunteers to help run its DAV Transportation Network, administered by its Hospital Service Coordinators at 197 VA medical facilities. Volunteers can use the DAV vans to pick up veterans for free, scheduled doctor appointments, ensuring that even those living remotely from VA hospitals can make their appointments and never go without the treatment they need.
7. Send a care package.
Being away from family and friends during the holidays can be hard on deployed service members, but with a little planning, you can ship some holiday cheer across the ocean. Keep in mind that there is usually a significant shipping time (about 2 weeks for the Middle East, and 1-2 weeks for the Pacific Region), so getting your package in the mail earlier is better. The post office offers specific packaging ideal for military care packages, but you can add your own creative twist by decorating the inside and including festive treats. Check out more creative ideas and common wish-list items to make the most of your care package.
8. Volunteer at a Fisher House.
Similar to the concept of the Ronald McDonald Houses, the network of Fisher Houses provides a place for families of veterans to stay for free while a loved one is recovering from an injury or receiving medical treatment at a VA medical facility. These homes save military families thousands of dollars, and research shows that having family members nearby often improves a veteran’s recovery time and overall response to treatment. Volunteer opportunities include helping with housekeeping chores, providing babysitting services and helping with small gifts and toy drives for children.
9. Volunteer at your local VA hospital.
You don’t need medical training to help veterans receiving treatment in VA medical facilities. Even the simplest volunteer roles – like handing out coffee or pushing around the library cart – can make life a bit easier for veterans and their families. To register as a volunteer, you can fill out an online form or contact the VA Voluntary Service Office at your nearest VA Medical Center directly. Additionally, organizations like Soldiers Angels have Hospital Support teams that create small care packages to share with veterans in VA facilities. Items on the wish list often include new socks, hygiene kits, warm blankets, and games and books to help pass the time. You can always check with your local VA facility for its wish list of items for residents as well.