Every year, on November 11, we stop to honor our veterans on Veterans Day. There are almost 20 million active and former service members that have gone to war in defense of this great nation. Under normal circumstances, there are parades and community festivals on Veterans Day, and depending on where you live there might still be this year. If your community is having a parade or carnival this year, then get there pronto and have some post-lockdown fun. If not, then we have plenty of ways to honor veterans this Veterans Day.
Volunteer and Make a Difference
There are hundreds of veteran’s organizations with the sole mission of helping veterans adjust to civilian life. All the organizations are non-profits and they gladly accept all volunteers willing to lend a hand. Find a local charity and inquire about opportunities. Local VA hospitals are always in need of help, with so many wounded warriors in need of medical attention. Many just want someone to talk with to take their mind off their reality. This is a great way to honor veterans on Veterans Day and it will make a world of difference.
Send a Letter or Care Package
Many groups compile addresses of active-duty soldiers to send them care packages and words of encouragement. Operation Gratitude has sent over 2 million individual care packages to soldiers, both former and active duty. They also go to the families and caregivers of wounded soldiers at home. As more American troops return to civilian life veterans’ programs have been growing to help them all. Operation Gratitude also has a letter writing campaign to send encouraging handwritten letters of gratitude to veterans. You can even make your own care packages and send them yourself. Pack boxes with creature comforts like coffee, baby powder, toothpaste, and candy. Little things that we take for granted are very much appreciated to those overseas.
Sponsor a Service Dog
Service dogs help veterans living with post traumatic stress disorder and other disabilities get control of their lives again. They help with independence and mobility while the rehab helps with their injuries and beyond. The dogs are highly trained, and it takes several months to get them ready. Most dogs need resources and the groups that train them are non-profit organizations. They need donations of food and supplies for the dogs. That’s where sponsorship comes into play. You can directly support a service dog until the time it is given to a veteran.
Patronize Veteran-Owned Businesses
Many veterans struggle to find work and opportunities when they return home. Many veterans make their own opportunities and start their own business. There are programs available to veterans that help them start their own businesses. When you see one, the best way to support it is by spending money with them. Veteran-owned businesses are happy to advertise that fact so they are easy to find. Patronize their business and if you like it, spread the word and encourage your friends to as well.
Donate Travel Points
Want to get a little more out of the box with your support? Donate frequent flier miles. Programs exist that will take your unused or unwanted miles and donate them to veterans and their families. Often, soldiers want to get home on leave for a couple of weeks but don’t have money to buy plane tickets. The miles are also usable by family members to visit wounded soldiers that are in hospitals in other states. It helps them get together and help each other.
Help Veterans on the Streets
Homelessness is a huge problem for veterans. Many of them struggle with mental health issues and substance abuse, so they turn to the streets. There is a hotline that goes directly to Veterans Affairs (VA) where they can get the help they need. Carry business cards with 877-4AID-VET on them and give it to homeless veterans and explain what it is and how they can help. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs Stand Down program is designed to help homeless veterans combat life on the streets. They have multi-day programs that provide food, shelter, clothing, and health screenings for homeless veterans.
Build Homes for Veterans
Severely injured veterans often come home needing a place to live that better accommodates their physical disabilities. Wounded soldiers come back with a variety of injuries and disabilities that make getting in and out of the house difficult. Building Homes for Heroes is a nonprofit that builds specially modified homes for veterans that help them live independently. These homes are provided at no cost to the veterans. They take donations of time and materials so they can build adequate homes. The organization also provides financial planning services to help veterans manage their finances and live well on what they have.
Honor the Greatest Generation
The Honor Flight Network helps veterans of the "greatest generation" make a free pilgrimage to the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington. That is the generation the was born in the Great Depression and went on to fight and win World War II. They get that name because they suffered many hardships yet never complained and answered the call to duty. You can volunteer to escort these men and women on the flight to see this memorial. Honor Flight also helps terminally ill veterans who served in any conflict visit memorials to those wars in Washington as well.
Share the Stories
Many veterans have a hard time sharing their story. What they saw in combat was awful and they have difficulty telling those that didn’t serve and helping them understand. While difficult to share, their stories shouldn’t be lost to history, as they are important and worth telling. So many veterans' stories have been left untold, but the Library of Congress is collecting the tales from veterans of every war through the Veterans History Project. If you are related to a veteran or know one who has a story to tell, the Library of Congress wants to hear it. Help veterans share their stories before it's too late.
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