5 Easy Ways to Honor Our Veterans
Posted in Uncategorized on January 22, 2019
Last Updated: January 22, 2019
With more than 19 million military veterans living in the United States today, you don’t have to look far to find someone who has served in our nation’s armed forces, either as active duty, reserve or a member of a military family.
While it’s always a kind gesture to offer a, “Thank you for your service,” there may be times you wish for a more concrete way to show appreciation for and honor our veterans.
5 Ways to Honor Our Veterans
Here are five easy ways that you can honor military veterans this year:
1. Ensure the next generation understands.
You might be amazed at what the younger generation may – or may not know – about U.S. history, specifically from a military perspective. While we do live in an age of readily accessible information, it can be difficult to highlight the truly impactful moments that helped shape our nation; moments that most likely entailed a great deal of sacrifice on the part of members of the military.
Look around your own sphere of influence and identify members of the younger generations that you can positively impact – your own children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews; perhaps children in your church or those hanging out your civic center or library. Brainstorm ways that you can help bridge the gap between their technology-driven perspective and the older generations quietly living a life after service.
It can be as simple as modeling with your own behavior: take them with you on a military holiday to visit a graveyard or veteran event, encourage them to donate a few dollars along with you to a veteran-supporting organization; or when you’re out and about, stop to shake hands and visit with an older veteran in your community. Ensure they know who the veterans are in your own life and show them it is important to take time to visit with and show respect for them.
Perhaps just as important is communication – ensuring that younger Americans in your life hear the stories and realize the impact and sacrifices made by U.S. military veterans. This can be as simple as a conversation on a military holiday, taking the time to explain some important historic event, or introducing them to a veteran in your community. Don’t assume that they will get this perspective elsewhere; take every chance you see to help educate and pass on the memories of those who have given so much over decades. This not only helps ensure “history does not repeat itself,” but that helps future generations maintain an accurate historic perspective that rightfully honors veterans.
2. Honor with your checkbook and time.
There are more than 45,000 non-profit, veteran-supporting organizations in the U.S. alone and every single one could use more donations and volunteers. Take a moment to reflect which of these you have to offer and take the steps to do so (donating both money and time is, of course, wonderful, too). You can check out an online database like Charity Navigator to not only access an extensive list of veteran organizations but use its “grading” system to verify the legitimacy and quality of each organization.
As you scroll through the list, be aware of what causes pull at your heartstrings: families of the deployed, organizations that help veterans purchase homes, wounded warriors etc. There’s no shortage of specialized organizations that focus on different elements of veterans’ lives.
Whether you commit to a small monthly donation (even replacing two or three fast-food meals a month can add up to a substantial amount of money over a year), or commit to offering up a couple of hours of your time each month to help serve the charity, every volunteer is an important element in making a difference in the life of the veterans the organization serves. Joining your efforts with others can truly help make a larger impact.
3. Keep your eyes open and help in small ways.
Almost 40% of U.S. veterans are 65 years and older, a group of Americans now beginning to contemplate their “golden years” and likely starting to face some substantial life changes. Whether they have had a spouse die or they suddenly are facing a serious illness, they may be needing assistance but not knowing, or wanting, to reach out for help.
Slipping into isolation is extremely easy, especially for seniors not constantly “plugged in” to today’s social media networks. In fact, studies show that isolation is one of the most detrimental risks faced by seniors, including increased risk of dementia and illness and increased mortality rates. It’s the duty of friends and neighbors to be aware and alert to the plight of this older generation, not only as a basic human responsibility but as a debt of gratitude to veterans.
So what exactly does this look like? Be on the lookout for a senior who has experienced life changes in the recent months; even if they have family members who may have temporarily been there to help, keep a watchful eye when the dust settles and they resume the daily tasks of everyday life.
Your job is not to be invasive or snoop, but to simply open your eyes and be aware. Check in with them regularly and often. If there is no one there to reach out to them, that very well might be your calling. You may not realize it, but your weekly call or visit might be the one thing keeping him or her going, something looked forward to for the whole week. Your simple, small actions may have an unseen positive impact in the lives of veterans in your life.
4. Put your talents to work.
If you’ve been in an office all week, the last thing you may want to do is more work when the day is done. But recent studies suggest that using your skills and talents in altruistic ways is actually energizing and rewarding, and you may be surprised at the emotional and mental payback your receive from helping others. Take a moment to look at your own life – your interests, skills, talents, training – and think outside the box. How can these traits be put to use to help others, specifically veterans?
Maybe you know how to knit and have some free time in the evenings; you can make blankets for homeless veterans or for soldiers recovering in your local VA medical facility. Maybe you love getting outside and working in your yard; consider an anonymous lawn maintenance routine for the homebound veteran down the street who can no longer push his lawnmower. Perhaps you are a pro at accounting; reach out to your local non-profit veteran organization and offer your bookkeeping services.
Something that seems simple and almost “too easy” for you could actually make a huge impact in the life of a veteran or the success of a charity.
5. Utilize your social network.
It’s never been easier to honor the veterans in your own life, whether digitally or in the real world. Whenever a holiday like Memorial Day or Veterans Day comes around, you have the perfect opportunity to express to your social circle the real meaning of the day. Taking a few moments to make a meaningful post or share an impactful link can actually help educate your friends and followers and encourage them to do so as well.
There are also numerous digital “walls of honor” where you can add a photo and memorial of a loved one who served proudly in the Armed Forces. For example, A Place for Mom's Wall of Honor allows you to upload life stories, memories and photos of veterans in your life. You can also take the time to read the stories of other veterans and share the links with your social network. Having a way to honor the veterans in your life is not only emotionally rewarding, but helps ensure their stories are never forgotten.
Rather than becoming overwhelmed by a long list of volunteer opportunities or wondering how you alone can really make a difference for U.S. veterans, focusing on those around you offers an easy and practical way to start “giving back.”
By showing our veterans that they are truly not forgotten and that they are and always will be remembered, can mean more than you know to those who sacrificed so much for the good of this nation.