Updated: May 13
Hello fellow veterans! I hope everyone is doing well during these challenging times we are in with the COVID-19 quarantine. It seems like we have been experiencing issues for a while now with no light at the end of the tunnel. I guess you can say we are establishing a new normal for our way of life. Who knows!? Anyway, I want to talk about help veterans today! We always discuss this at our meetings, and our primary mission as an organization is to help veterans within our community. I think we do an outstanding job at this! However, what do we do as individuals? If you would like to show some gratitude for the sacrifices made and support veterans, there are many ways to make it happen. Sometimes even a small gesture can have a significant impact. Our veterans have many needs and challenges because of their military service, and they can use support and assistance in various ways that may not always be obvious. It is just a thought, and it does not take much to devote a little time to help a fellow veteran out. Here are some ideas. (NOTE: I realize some of these ideas do not comply with current COVID-19 quarantine restrictions. So please use with caution and be safe). Some of these ideas may have to wait till after all of this COVID-19 stuff calms down.
1. Pick up the tab for a Veteran's coffee or meal.
The next time you see a veteran in a restaurant or standing in line for coffee, pick up the tab. You can do so anonymously if you would prefer, but even a quick "thank you for your service" would mean a lot to the veteran. You don't have to limit yourself to dinner or a latte—you could pay for a tank of gas, a prescription, or a cart of groceries.
2. Show you, support Veterans, by Providing Transportation
One way to support veterans in your local area is to provide necessary transportation to get to medical and mental health treatment appointments. The VA has a volunteer transportation network that allows volunteers to donate their time and/or the use of their vehicles for veterans in need. Donated vehicles may also be used or accepted by the program.
3. Visit Wounded Vets in a Nearby VA Facility
Another great way to show that you support veterans is to pay a visit to wounded vets at a VA facility near you. These injured veterans may not have many visitors to brighten their day. Once you find the nearest VA facility, contact the staff, and find out if you can arrange a visit. The staff may be able to identify veterans who would benefit the most from a visit.
4. Say Thank You and Mean It
One of the easiest ways to support veterans is a simple thank you, as long as it is heartfelt and sincere. A simple act of gratitude for everything that the veteran faced and gave up seems like such a small thing, but it is something that American veterans do not hear as often as they should. These two words can brighten even a lousy day for a veteran because you acknowledge their service.
In particular, saying, “Welcome home. Thank you for your service” to Vietnam veterans can have a substantial emotional impact on them since Vietnam era veterans did not experience even the lip-service support from American society that today’s veterans receive.
5. Fight Homelessness, Eviction, and Foreclosure among Veterans
If you support veterans, then you realize that many veterans face foreclosure, eviction, and homelessness. You can volunteer with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, donate your time and effort to Homes for Our Troops, or even provide financial assistance to veteran organizations to prevent the eviction of a military family.
6. Perform Home Repairs or Household Chores for a Veteran in Need
One terrific way to support veterans is to perform home repairs or household chores for a veteran in need. Many veterans in your area may need help with household chores or home repairs because of a disability, a severe injury, or even a lack of financial resources. When you help out in this way, you will gain an incredible sense of satisfaction while helping repay a veteran who deserves it.
7. Donate your Time to a Veteran Organization
There are other ways to support veterans, even if you do not have special skills or a lot of knowledge in-home repair. You can volunteer with a veteran organization and make a difference. These organizations depend on volunteers to keep costs down. Clerical work, answering phones, organizing, and stepping in to help with menial work can make an enormous difference. The National Veteran Foundation welcomes volunteers of all ages and skill levels at our offices in Los Angeles.
8. Replace one light bulb in your home with a green one.
The Greenlight a Vet project is a simple way to remind yourself and others about the sacrifice veterans have made for our country and to show your appreciation to them. Simply purchase a green bulb and place it somewhere in your home—a porch lamp is ideal since it's most visible to others. Over 9 million people across the nation have logged their green lights into the project's nationwide map so far.
9. Volunteer your Services to Help Vets in Need
If you do have special skills that you can offer, whether these are IT skills, tax preparation training, or medical training, then you can support veterans by providing your skills free of charge. You will be able to use your knowledge and training to help veterans who need these skills right now and who may have limited financial resources to pay for this type of assistance.
10. Write a letter to thank a veteran.
Operation Gratitude is an organization that coordinates care packages, gifts, and letters of thanks to veterans. You can work through them to send your appreciation to a vet or volunteer to help assemble care packages. And, if you still have candy kicking around from Halloween, Operation Gratitude also mails sweets to deployed troops.
11. Spend Time with a Vet and Take the Time to Listen
One way that you can give something back to a veteran who was willing to sacrifice everything is to spend time with them and listen to them. Many veterans end up socially isolated, and this can have a negative effect on their mental and physical health. Get to know veterans in your area and spend time with them so that they have social opportunities and do not end up isolated.
12. Provide Food for Veterans
Many veterans are hungry, and a home-cooked meal will provide them with much-needed nutrition. Even vets that are not lacking food will benefit from a meal or a homemade batch of cookies. It shows them that someone cares. Contact your local church or veteran organization to see who might appreciate your culinary delights. Feed Our Vets is an organization that specializes in feeding hungry veteran families.
13. Get involved with a Veterans assistance program.
There are veterans in your community that could use help—but how do you find them? Contact a local veterans assistance program, such as the one offered by DAV. They'll be able to put you in touch with local vets who need help doing chores like yard work, housework, grocery shopping, or running errands.
14. Help Veterans with job training.
Adjusting to civilian life after military service isn't always smooth sailing. Hire Heroes helps vets with interview skills, resumes, and training so they can find a post-military career. They even partner with various employers to host a job board. Through Hire Heroes, you can help veterans with mock interviews, career counseling, job searches, workshops, and more.
15. Help build a house for a Veteran.
Building Homes for Heroes builds or modifies homes to suit the needs of veterans injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. The houses are given mortgage-free to veterans and their families. You can volunteer your painting, carpentry, plumbing, wiring, and other skilled services—or you can just donate to the cause.
16. Volunteer for an "Operation Reveille" or “Stand Down” event for homeless veterans.
The VA continually hosts Operation Reveille or Stand Down, a series of one- to three-day events that give much-needed supplies and services to homeless veterans. Vets can receive everything from food and clothing to health screenings, housing solutions, substance abuse treatment, and mental health counseling. They take place at various places across the nation all year long, so contact the representative in your state about when and how you can volunteer.
17. Visit a Vet with your Pet
It is a well-known fact that animals provide emotional and physical benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Animal-assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and fatigue in people with a range of health problems.” Dogs are the most commonly used for therapy and service dogs. A well-behaved dog can receive certification and be able to bring some affection and calmness into a vet’s life.
18. Send a care package In addition to helping people send care packages to active duty members, Operation Gratitude’s “Welcome Home Heroes” initiative sends care packages to veterans. “Just as with our care packages to deployed troops, we want to put a smile on the face of every veteran who courageously served our nation,” says Operation Gratitude’s founder Carolyn Blashek on the organization’s website. Veteran care packages can include many of the items sent to active-duty troops, including personal letters of thanks, snacks, books, magazines, and hygiene items.
So, this list is not inclusive by any means. Please add to it and be creative in your ways to give back to Veterans in our community. They will appreciate it, just as you did when you received something in the past. Believe it or not, it is also just as therapeutic for you to help and give to other veterans.
Conradt, S. (2018). 11 Honorable Ways You Can Help Veterans. Retrieved from https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/88348/11-honorable-ways-you-can-help-veterans
Lowe, L. (2019). 7 Ways to Help Veterans, Soldiers, and Their Families. Retrieved from https://parade.com/297092/linzlowe/7-ways-to-help-veterans-soldiers-and-their-families/
National Federal Foundation (2016). 10 Simple Ways to Support Veterans and Make a Difference. Retrieved from https://nvf.org/support-veterans-make-difference/
Image provided by National Veterans Foundation (2020). Jobs for Veterans. Retrieved from https://nvf.org