11 Unique Ways to Honor Vets Every Day

Joanna

When I was in high school, our honor society threw an ice cream party for the patients of our local VA facility. We had an ice cream bar with tons of toppings and flavors. Most of the vets had served in World War II; a few were also there due to severe injuries sustained in Vietnam and Iraq. We helped elderly men choose their toppings and dipped ice cream for those whose arthritis didn’t allow them the strength to do it themselves. It was such a small thing—after all, an ice cream party isn’t difficult to put together. (And it’s fun for everyone involved!) Still, a decade later, that memory has stayed with me and is even more poignant now as a military spouse.

November 11th is Veteran's Day, and—just like every year—our attention is turned back to the men and women who have given their youth, time and energy to protecting our country and preserving our freedoms. Probably no one knows those sacrifices more clearly or intimately than we do…and we know how special and meaningful the smallest gesture of thanks can be.

It’s fantastic to give back to veterans on November 11th, but we can also support and honor them throughout the year.  (You knew that already, but I just HAD to say it!) There are so many diverse and wonderful programs out there to make sure that vets receive the care and honor they’ve earned and deserve.

I’ve pulled together ideas that are a little more different than the standard volunteer opportunities with veterans. Print it out and hang it on your fridge, share it with friends, read it to your kids… but whatever you do, make a point to give back.

Make it Easier for Families to Care for their Vets

Ever heard of Fisher House? (If not, click its button on the sidebar to the right!) It’s a fantastic organization that provides a “home away from home” for the families of wounded veterans and active duty members who are receiving care at major military and VA treatment centers.  There are 63 Fisher Houses across the country that have served over 180,000 military families since 1990. That’s amazing! And they can’t serve without your help! There are a number of ways to give to the Fisher House, including donating a car, stocks and bonds, and your frequent flyer miles. Check out more opportunities and details on their website.

Create Thank-You Gifts

Care packages are one of the things that military members remember fondly and they don’t have to stop after their service is over. Contact your local VA or American Legion and ask if they have a list of a few elderly veterans that your family can adopt for Veteran’s Day (or any day of the year).  If you have children, have them help to decorate the boxes or containers and create thank-you cards. If you’re able to, visit your adoptee to give them your care package. You’ll light up their day.

Not sure what to include? Everyone loves homemade baked goods and candies (regular or sugar-free). You might want to also include stationary, crossword or puzzle books, Lipton’s Cup-a-Soups or teas, pre-packaged snacks, cards, and movies. It would be a great touch to include a military-themed item like a shirt or hat from your installation—especially if your veteran shares the same branch that your family does. I’ll bet that would draw a HUGE smile! For a female veteran, you might want to include a bottle or two of nail polish and a nail care kit, a pretty smelling hand sanitizer or lotion, and Simple facial wipes. For a male veteran, consider Dove Men+Care products, a male manicure kit, and cologne. (If you are delivering to a patient at the VA, inquire about any possible allergies or diet restrictions.)

Take Care of Their Spouse

We know that being a military spouse is a fantastic experience… but it’s also one that can be tough at times.  It’s no different for the spouses of vets—especially when they are dealing with sickness and injury. Contact your local VA hospital or military installation and ask if there are any support programs for spouses dealing with the long-term care of their veteran. Create a care package for them and include thank-you cards too.

Put Smiles on Faces at Military Hospitals

Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon works hard to boost the morale of our troops at home and abroad. They have also done outreach and programming for veterans and wounded personnel, like the fantastic Super Bowl party they threw this January at Walter Reed. Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon has an on-going list of current needs to keep in mind when you’re out shopping.

Recommend Honor Flight Network

Do you know of a veteran who would find meaning in an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington DC to visit and reflect on the memorials and monuments? Honor Flight Network is an organization that pays tribute to veterans through offering safe and free travel to our nation’s capital. Honor Flight Network also accepts volunteers to help with logistics—apply if you are interested. (How cool is that?) Honor Flight Network gives preference to veterans that served during World War II or are terminally ill, but accepts applications from all veterans. If you know someone who would benefit from this fantastic program, encourage them to apply.

Be a Friend

If you live near a university, invite a student veteran over for dinner or contact the school’s veterans’ group to see how you can provide support. Vets who go to college after their service often feel less connected because they are typically older than the average college student, have different responsibilities—like families, and have experiences that college students don’t. Many universities are working to provide more support to fix this, but there’s nothing like a friendly face, especially during the first few months of the semester.

Of course, there are many other ways to connect with veterans. If these don’t hit your fancy, contact the United Way, American Legion, DAV.org, Volunteer Match, Joining Forces, or United We Serve. You may also find opportunities at your local VA or other organizations in your area.

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