American veterans are a unique group of people all bound by one commonality—service to country. Regardless of what led a person to military service, the fact is that they were all called to serve.
Many veterans do not believe that they are owed any special treatment or recognition. Research polls continue to show that American society holds the veteran near and dear to its heart and since most veterans are humble people, it can be a challenge to figure out how to honor veterans.
Allow us to help. We asked veterans, including some of our USAMM team members who are veterans, how to honor veterans and this is what we learned.
How to Honor Veterans by Volunteering
Time is the greatest gift a person can give another. There are numerous veteran causes and non-profits that help veterans who might need assistance post-service.
With a little research, you can likely join a team that is helping build or modify a house for a veteran or you can spend time volunteering at the local veteran’s hospital, veterans’ home and with veterans’ organizations. This is probably the best way to honor veterans.
If service projects or community service aren’t your thing you can also attend and be a part of events that help the veteran community. Galas, silent auctions, golf outings, hunting trips, and other fun events help raise money for veteran organizations and many also offer the opportunity to interact with veterans.
How to Honor Veterans by Donating to a Veteran Service Organization
There are numerous veteran service organizations (VSO) that can use your physical assistance (volunteerism), but they can also use your financial support. These organizations help fill in the gaps that are created when veterans transition from the military into the civilian world.
While disabled veterans are compensated by the government for their injuries, sometimes their homes aren’t properly prepared to accommodate them if they return from their service with life-changing injuries. Some VSOs help modify homes and make them wheelchair accessible. Other VSOs help with transitional assistance like job training, caregiver support, and others help those who are still serving by providing comfort and support to deploying troops.
How to honor veterans becomes easier when you open your wallet, but remember that you have to open your heart first.
How to Honor Veterans by Acknowledging their Service
Memorial Day, Veterans Day, July 4th are just a few days throughout the year where you can reach out to the veteran in your life and thank them for their service. If you know a veteran personally, consider asking them to speak at a civic organization’s meeting, or at a local school or place of worship. Many schools, cities and counties have parades and recognition events where veterans can be included.
Veterans can also be recognized and acknowledged at your work and in community events. Veterans are a national treasure and they are living history. We can learn a lot just by speaking with them.
Military service, for many, is a transformative significant life event that leaves an indelible mark. When military personnel return to civilian life, their military service, despite the significance of it to the individual and to the security of the nation, usually just becomes a part of a veteran’s employment history.
If you know a veteran at work or in your community, take the time to highlight their service to the country when you can. Military themed awareness days (military birthdays, Veterans Day) are all opportunities for you to recognize someone’s service.
A social media post that offers a shout out to the person is a simple way to honor a veteran. Recognizing an Army veteran in a meeting on the Army’s birthday by bringing in some cupcakes or bagels is a nice touch and allows the veteran to see that co-workers value his or her service, and not just on Veterans Day. It is important to understand that when we think about how to honor veterans that we do not do it only once per year, but as often as we can.
How to Honor Veterans by Giving a Gift
As previously mentioned, veterans are normally a pretty humble bunch, so expect some awkwardness if you give them a gift. Most will tell you they do not feel right accepting something in return for their service, but small gestures matter.
For example, if you’re in a restaurant and you see a veteran wearing a Vietnam Veteran hat, ask the waitress to send you their check and pay for the veteran’s meal. You can do this anonymously, or approach the veteran and express to them what you’d like to do.
There are veterans from across all generations living in your community. On military-themed days, you can leave them gift cards on their doorsteps to show your appreciation for their service or if the veteran in your life is more than just a neighbor you can buy them a small token, like a veteran shirt, to show your appreciation for them. Remember, veterans are not charities, you are merely thanking them or recognizing them for what they did for our country.
Small personalized gifts are a nice way to say thanks.
How to Honor Veterans by Understanding
As we’ve often heard, only a small percentage of our population serves in the military. For most Americans, military service is about as familiar as walking on the moon. Therefore, it is important to understand the sacrifices that our military men and women make on behalf of the country. They often miss family birthdays, milestones and spend holidays away from their loved ones.
It is often stated that the U.S. military defends American freedom. Some argue that there aren’t any threats knocking on our doors like Pearl Harbor and German subs lurking off the coast of the United States, therefore, the American military is not really defending anything.
Others, like the millions of people who served in the aftermath of 9-11, see it differently. They feel that their service is a deterrent to those who threaten freedom. No matter how you see military service, as a nation, we are indebted to our veterans for their service and we should always be thinking how to honor veterans.