When veterans return home from duty, they are going to need support from their families to get them back into the ways of normal life.
Most people will never have to serve for their country in their lifetime, yet there are so many ways to help. This ranges from dealing with injuries to helping with paperwork.
Here are some ways you can volunteer to help them out:
- Give a veteran a ride
Medical care may be needed for some veterans for the rest of their lives. There are programs that provide free transportation to men and women who can’t travel to the medical facilities on their own. You can volunteer to drive a van for those who need a lift.
Veterans may also find it difficult to get to a new job if they become employed so helping them solve travel arrangements is another way you can help. Arrange a car pool; they will also be glad o the company.
- Donate frequent flier miles
The Fisher House Foundation has a network of homes on the grounds of military and VA hospitals around the country. These homes help family members be close during the hospitalisation of a loved one for a combat injury, illness or disease.
Fisher House operates the Hero Miles Program, using donated frequent flier miles to bring family members to the bedside of injured service members. You can also volunteer or donate household items.
- Sponsor a companion dog for veterans with PTSD
More than a third of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have or will experience post-traumatic stress disorder. And veterans of past wars are still dealing with the ghosts of their time in the service. Coping with PTSD can put stress on not just veterans but also their families and friends.
Veterans With Dogs a program in which prisoners train companion dogs for veterans with PTSD. Donors can sponsor a dog and receive updates on the dog’s training and life with its veteran.
(If you know a veteran dealing with PTSD, there are plenty of coaches that help veterans learn to manage symptoms, come up with ways to cope and find professional help.)
- Help build a home for severely injured vets
Severely injured veterans often come home needing a place to live that better accommodates their physical disabilities. As anyone who is close to someone with a disability will know, it can be difficult to cope with even the simplest tasks for the abled.
Building Homes for Heroes builds specially modified homes for veterans that help them live independently. These homes are provided at no cost to the veterans. The organisation also provides financial planning services.
- Keep veterans off the streets
In times of war, exhausted combat units were removed from the battlefield to “stand down” in a place of relative security to rest. The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Stand Down program is designed to help homeless veterans “combat” life on the streets.
Stand Downs are usually one- to three-day events to provide food, shelter, clothing and health screenings to homeless and unemployed veterans. To find a Stand Down program in your community, contact your local VA hospital in the VA Medical Centre Directory.
A phone call can also make difference in the life of a veteran who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
- Send a care package or a letter
These can be in the form of entertainment, food or personal messages meant to show appreciation to the efforts of veterans.
Operation Gratitude has sent more than 1.5 million individually addressed care package to the military community. The packages are sent to current military members as well as veterans, wounded warriors and their caregivers.
As more troops return to civilian life, the Operation Gratitude veterans program has been growing. It also has a letter writing campaign encouraging everyone to write handwritten letters of gratitude to veterans.
- Help them take flight
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. 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.
- Help with administrative issues
When a veteran returns home, they are going to need to complete a whole host of paperwork to finalise the discharge. One of the most important forms they will be required to complete is the DD-214.
To help them out, look for a specialist that will take care of the administrative issues. DD214 Direct find and deliver discharge documents on the veteran’s behalf. They work directly with archival researchers to obtain the DD-214. In many cases, they physically stand in line at government counters, so you don’t have to.
- Share their stories
So many veterans’ stories have been left untold, but the Library of Congress is collecting the tales of veterans of every war with 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.
It’s also important for stories to be shared with the younger generation so they do not get forgotten about. The service done by veterans is vital history.
- Say thank you
Above all else, make sure you acknowledge the service that these brave men and women have given. They are real life super heroes, protecting us and enabling us to live our lives. Without them, who knows what could happened.
It’s simple, but it can make an impact. And so many veterans have never heard the words “thank you.” If you know a veteran or see someone in a military uniform, say something. It may make his or her day and yours.
I like how you mentioned donating or volunteering household items to service members. My sister’s husband is a veteran and wants to start his own veteran relief program this summer. I’ll be sure to share this with him so he can get more ideas on how to help veterans in our area.