Many Americans might view Veterans Day as just another federal holiday, but the day is about so much more than that. It's a day to celebrate those who courageously served — or are serving — in the U.S. Armed Forces, men and women who risked their lives to protect our nation. While the simple honoring of these service members is a nice personal gesture, why not thank veterans this year by giving them something they can really appreciate? There are many ways you can help veterans, whether it's donating to a charity or volunteering at a veterans organization — or even just saying "thank you." There's no better way to celebrate Veterans Day than by giving back.
While veterans issues is a priority for any presidential candidate, there are ways that everyday Americans can contribute to make veterans' lives easier. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), unemployment, and homelessness are just a few of the issues that plague our veterans who come home after unimaginably difficult duties overseas to a system that often leaves them feeling completely alone and helpless. But each of us as individuals, and American citizens, can do something to help, and when better to start than this Veterans Day?
Here are six ways you can give back to the veteran community to thank them for their service.
There are numerous charity organizations that you can donate to:
- The Wounded Warrior Project provides rehabilitation, career counseling, and other reintegration services to wounded vets.
- U.S.VETS provides transitional and permanent housing for homeless and at-risk vets.
- Disabled American Veterans (DAV) offers its 1.2 million members with disability assistance, career programs, and more.
- The Hero Miles Program takes donated frequent flier miles to bring family members to where injured service members are hospitalized.
Some organizations benefit more from volunteer work than donations. Here are a few major ones where you can lend a helping hand.
- There are Department of Veteran Affairs hospitals nationwide that could always use volunteers. You can find your local VA hospital using this directory.
- You can volunteer to drive a van through DAV to give veterans who live far from a VA center a free ride.
- Volunteer at a local Stand Down program, an event that provides food, shelter, clothing, and health screenings for unemployed and homeless veterans.
- For other ways to volunteer to help veterans, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs' official VA Voluntary Service page.
Build A Home
Many veterans who are seriously injured on duty are no longer able to navigate their homes. You can help make their lives easier by building a customized home that can better accommodate their disabilities. Homes For Our Troops provides these homes to veterans at no cost with the help of donations and volunteer work. Building a veteran a home is one of the most valuable ways you can give back.
Provide A Friend
Dogs improve the lives of veterans in a multitude of ways, from service dogs assisting vets with disabilities to companion dogs helping to ease PTSD. There are several programs that provide a canine best friend for our veterans that you can donate to or volunteer at:
- Paws and Stripes focuses on pairing dogs with veterans with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
- Pets For Patriots helps find adult shelter dogs and special-needs dogs homes with military members.
- K9s For Warriors provides service dogs for injured veterans and veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, or military sexual trauma.
Send A Package
You can send a care package to a service member through Operation Gratitude, which accepts food, hygiene products, books, games, handmade items, and letters of encouragement. Still have leftover Halloween candy? You can include that in your package and brighten a soldier's day.
Say "Thank You"
Then there's the simplest way to give back. If you see someone in uniform on Veterans Day — or any day — a simple "thank you" could really make their day. Even a small gesture like this is a major reminder of why they give their service to the country.