If you have never served in the military yourself, you may be wondering how you can thank and support those who have. Of course, words of gratitude can mean a lot, but there are many tangible ways you can help veterans and their families, too. Remember, it’s not uncommon for veterans to struggle with the lasting effects of injuries and trauma. They may be dealing with financial problems and well as health issues, and even sometimes face extreme poverty and homelessness. But even veterans who are gainfully employed and successful in their careers may sometimes feel isolated in their communities. Here are some ways you can personally help.
How you can help veterans be better housed.
Find out whether there are any organizations near you that help veterans find affordable housing or assist them in improving their existing homes. Volunteering or donating to such organizations is one way to help veterans in vulnerable situations. If you are in contact with any veterans who are personally in need, see if you can connect them with the organizations that will help them. You could also give them a hand applying for a VA loan to buy a home. These loans are great for veterans who are low-income because they will not be required to make a down payment, or purchase insurance when they get a mortgage.
You can also connect them to mortgage services through Mortgages for America. Their Homes for Heroes program allows veterans to take out a mortgage without origination, underwriting, processing, credit report, and appraisal fees.
How you can help them with their basic material needs.
Many veterans, and even service members, are without some of the basics that they need to enjoy an acceptable quality of life. Find out if you can participate in charitable programs that deliver food to veterans, service members, and their families. You can also help veterans by partnering with area service organizations or non-profits to run food drives or supply drives. Service members who are stationed away from their families could also use some tangible support. Consider brightening their day by sending them care packages, especially over the holidays.
How you can help veterans in search of employment.
The Department of Veteran Affairs can help veterans find work or put them in touch with other organizations that can assist them. But you can help them in their search for employment, too. While most veterans have extensive skills and training, they may not know the ropes when it comes to writing up resumes and cover letters and applying for jobs in the civilian world. You can help them with this, as well as by introducing them to possible employers.
You can also connect them with educational opportunities to boost their skills and resume. For example, they can earn a master’s degree online. Online programs are typically more affordable and have much more flexibility than in-person degree programs.
How you can help them fulfill their spiritual and emotional needs.
Don’t forget that many veterans may also need emotional support and are in search of spiritual fulfillment. Real connection with friends and community, especially with empathetic companions who are willing to listen, can be a boon for their emotional well-being. If you know a veteran who seems to be searching for a higher power in their life or deeper meaning, consider whether they might appreciate an invitation to your faith or worship community. However, if a veteran seems to be struggling with genuine mental wellness issues, it’s important to help them contact – and afford – a mental health professional who can give them a correct diagnosis and care.
Veterans are an active and vital part of our society, on every possible level: in our government, in our workforce, and in our churches and faith communities. But this doesn’t mean they always feel as connected and valued as they should. Plus, many are at-risk, enduring health ailments and poverty. So, make a point of connecting with veterans, and supporting them when needed.