Giving Thanks for Veterans

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2017

Fresh on the heels of Veterans Day, the U.S. celebration of Thanksgiving keeps Americans in the mindset of gratitude and encourages us to keep the 2.4 million active duty and reservists, and the 20.4 million U.S. veterans in our thoughts this season.

On a holiday where most Americans are surrounded by family, food and warmth, it’s important to consider those who may instead be struggling to find their next meal or a warm place to sleep, or those who may be serving their country hundreds of thousands of miles away from home.Giving Thanks for Veterans

Giving Thanks for Veterans

This Thanksgiving, consider setting aside some time to actively thank our nation’s heroes with some easy yet impactful ways to show thankfulness.

Not only does it benefit our veterans and service members, it can help ensure that your own attitude of gratitude remains, even after the leftovers are gone.

Here are three practical ways to get started:

1. Remembering Those Who Are Alone

A major difficulty faced by aging seniors, including U.S. veterans, is isolation and loneliness, and the “winter blues” – or Seasonal Affective Disorder – is no laughing matter. The cold weather keeps many inside, sunshine is limited and a lack of personal interactions can take a toll on a senior’s mental and physical health. This Thanksgiving, take a moment to think about the seniors in your life, especially the widows and widowers who may be facing their first (or yet another) holiday alone. While many have family members, some live removed from daily interaction with loved ones. A small meal or a visit from you can make a big difference in their entire holiday. If you need more ideas on where to start, you can consider volunteering with Meals on Wheels, delivering meals to home-bound seniors in need.

Additionally, reaching out to veterans, even younger ones, during the holidays can be a very important lifeline to those struggling. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) suicide prevention campaign, even the smallest gestures like simply checking in with a veteran, sending a text or taking time for a visit can be just enough to help them through a rough time. You can learn more about warning signs and the simple ways to help battle veteran suicide at the VA’s #BeThere website.

2. Sharing a Meal

While many of us overindulge on Thanksgiving with an abundance of food, we should also remember those whose holiday experience is very different. According to the nonprofit Feed Our Vets, more than 130,000 veterans are homeless and hungry on any given night in America, with one in three homeless people in America being a U.S. military veteran. Nearly three million veterans and their families don’t have enough to eat each month.

Thankfully, there are numerous easy ways you can help veterans battle hunger on Thanksgiving. You can donate to or volunteer at your local food bank, which often accepts a wide range of fresh and non-perishable items that it then redistributes to those in need in your community. Many local homeless shelters and “soup kitchens” provide special meals on Thanksgiving, and actively serving others can be a practical way to ensure that you (and your family or group of friends) are keeping the proper perspective during Thanksgiving.

Many local veteran service organizations (VSOs), places like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts and various Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) centers often host a Thanksgiving meal for members and other local veterans. By contacting these groups and seeing how you can help and volunteer, you can actively participate in a very practical way to thank veterans.

3. Thanksgiving in a Box

Maybe you know someone who is serving overseas during the holiday season and could use a little taste of home during his or her deployment. With a little bit of planning and a quick trip to the grocery store, you can create a festive care package that brings the holiday spirit across the miles. Add some simple craft decoration items or Thanksgiving-themed goodies from your discount store, you can include some fall flair to the inside of the shipping box (you can get special boxes that meet military shipping guidelines at your local post office). Check out these tips for creating a great care package for someone deployed. Great items to include:

  • Clothing: white socks, shirts from home sports teams
  • Comfort items: lip balm, lens-cleaning cloths, pain relieving topical cream, Vicks VapoRub (wrap everything individually in case of damage during transport)
  • Non-perishable snacks: peanut butter, beef jerky, store-bought cookies, packets of water flavorings, barbecue sauce, packets of hot sauce, sunflower seeds, nuts
  • Things to do in downtime: Games, cards, video games, e-reader, books

If you don’t know of a service member currently deployed, you can sign up and participate in the Soldiers’ Angels Deployed Support programs that include baking teams, letter writing teams, and other correspondence activities.

Giving to others during the holiday season can make a difference in your own experience, helping keep you centered on what’s truly important by sharing goodwill with your fellow man. In a world where we are always looking for ways to say thank you to our veterans and service members, we need look no further than our own communities and neighbors. Read about additional ways that civilians and veterans can volunteer to help other veterans.

Written by Megan Hammons

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