We’ve all seen the “Support the Troops” magnets that pepper many cars across our great Nation. I personally have always felt that supporting the troops means a lot more than just slapping a magnet on your car bumper. To me, support typically means action. While I’m sure we all appreciate the thought, there are actually many things that civilians can do to truly support the Soldiers who have risked their lives to defend this country. That being said, here are my Top 7 Ways to Help a Veteran.
7. Become Educated: If you are truly interested in helping a Veteran returning home, the most important thing you can do is become educated. It is very beneficial to understand common symptoms, ways to earn and keep a Veteran’s trust, common stressors that increase a Veteran’s vulnerabilities, etc. As with anything in life, the more educated and aware we are about something, the more effective we are.
6. Offer Fellowship, Religious or Spiritual Comfort: For many Veterans, religion and spirituality are very important aspects of returning to civilian life. Becoming involved in your local church or church group will provide much-needed support. If your church doesn’t have an organization geared towards returning Veterans, lead the way and spearhead the development of one yourself!
5. Networking: Between possible rehabilitation or simply the daily grind of working to adjust to civilian life, Veterans can often benefit from assisted leg-work. They may not have the time to do research into the enormous number of organizations that may help them. They also may not know where to turn to when they need to apply for housing assistance or school, seek professional attention for medical issues, or even how to collect payments they are due. By networking with Veterans, these resources rise to the surface and are more visible to them. The easier these programs and resources are for them to obtain, the more likely it is that they will receive the benefits from them.
4. Become Involved in your Local Unit Family Support Group: While your husband, wife or child may not be in a local National Guard or Reserve Unit, their Family Readiness/Support Groups are always in need of helping hands. Oftentimes, these groups do not get enough support internally from the unit alone. Your support (either monetary or time) helps these groups execute their programs and activities which support the families of the Soldier who is serving overseas. It may be indirect, but still another great way to support a Veteran and their family.
3. Contribute to Veteran Support Organizations: Wounded Warrior Project, USO, etc. are just a few examples of organizations that do great things for our Veteran’s every day. When I first moved to the DC area I actually got involved with a local DC organization which takes recovering Veterans from Walter Reed Medical Hospital out to eat each month. We would sit, eat and talk; and this monthly event helped these recovering Veterans get off the medical campus and feel normal again for an evening. Perhaps we don’t have the time to donate but the cash. Monetary contributions allow these organizations to continue their good work and you can take the personal pride in knowing that you made that possible.
2. Treat Normal Days as if They Were Veteran’s Day: As human beings, one of the things we all strive for is the feeling of appreciation. While the United States is just now addressing its learned lessons from the negative treatment of returning Vietnam Soldiers, today’s Veterans often to not get the appreciation they truly deserve. While we do our jobs voluntarily and are humble about our sacrifices, as human beings, we still long for the feeling of appreciation. I personally think that it is a great practice to thank a Veteran for their service often and sincerely. The personal attention and time you take to talk to a Veteran may just be the thing that makes their day and motivates them during their transition back into civilian life.
1. Practice Patience and Understanding: Nobody, without ever serving themselves, can be expected to understand what a Soldier has experienced, especially in combat. As William Tecumseh Sherman so eloquently put it, “War is hell”. Experiencing that hell oftentimes leaves deep emotional scars that change our lives forever. To me, the best way to truly support a Veteran is to have the patience and understanding to positively interact with that Soldier. Oftentimes, it can be frustrating that a particular catalyst can cause a loved one or friend to have a flashback or act withdrawn from social situations. Rather than becoming frustrated, which is obvious to others, apply the principle of patience and try to place yourself in that Soldier’s boots… Be there to comfort and console. Always fight the urge to feel frustrated or angry with that person because they may have changed.
Do you have any other ways to help Veterans that you think should be on this list? Do you have any questions? Just post any and all below. Thank you.