There’s a lot of talk these days about whether or not military personnel appreciate being thanked for their service. Like all things, it is an individual thing.
Some veterans, like Vietnam War veterans, might not have been embraced by Americans when they returned from the war. Many of them do not mind being thanked for their service because of the cold reception they may have gotten when they returned home from the war.
More recent veterans of the post 9/11 wars might feel differently. While there are exceptions, more recent military veterans are accustomed to being supported by the American public. At one point in the aftermath of 9/11 the U.S. Defense Department started a program, and website, called America Supports You. Thanking them might make them feel awkward.
In addition to a veteran’s political climate during his or her service, there are also personal values that come into play. Nonetheless, if you’re feeling as if you would like to express gratitude towards a veteran or military service member in your life, here are 10 ideas if you find yourself asking how to thank someone for their military service.
1. How to thank someone for their military service by hiring them
At some point in time, military personnel become veterans. Maybe they completed their military service obligation, retired, or separated from the service for other honorable reasons. Whatever the reason, everyone leaves the military at some point and many require a transition to another job in the civilian sector.
A common misconception about military veterans is that they might be too rigid or that they lack creativity. Many of today’s military members have served in a military that has been in constant war and the environments they have served in required agility, creativity and flexibility.
Many veterans are skilled leaders and they know how to get people to perform and they know how to manage expectations and objectives. They are confident in themselves and in those around them.
Hiring a veteran is a wonderful way to thank someone for their military service because it gives them an opportunity to transition from the ranks into the civilian sector. Hiring a veteran will prove to be a good investment because a company gains a motivated, eager, problem-solver who can think on their feet.
2. How to thank someone for their military service by shopping vet-owned
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses in the United States and veteran-owned businesses employ roughly 5.8 million people.
Many veterans are proud of their service and will prominently share their military veteran status on company ads or social media. A great way to say thank you to a veteran for their military service is to patronize businesses that are veteran owned. Giving your business to a veteran-owned company sends ripples through the community and helps veterans support their families and their communities.
It is a nice way to show appreciation for those who have done so much for our country.
3. How to thank someone for their military service by donating to veteran causes
There are many organizations in need of financial donations to help the less fortunate in their communities. Veteran charities are no different, they simply serve the niche community of those who have served in the military.
A great way to thank someone for their military service is to donate to veteran causes. There are plenty of them to choose from; some focus on wounded veterans, homeless veterans and war veterans. Veterans are a cross section of American society and as such, many are susceptible to the many social issues that plague our society.
Some veterans are thrust into horrible circumstances because of their military service and there are military and veteran-centric causes to help them as well. In most cases you can donate cash or goods, but supporting veteran causes is a great way to say thanks.
4. How to thank someone for their military service by creating a shadow box
If you personally know someone who has served, they might appreciate a shadow box. The bulk of American veterans serve long enough to fulfill their contractual military service obligation and then they leave the ranks. Many do not retire from the military or make it a career.
In some cases, veterans simply don’t think about creating shadow boxes for themselves after they’ve been discharged. They are proud of their service, but most simply are too busy focusing on the transition into the civilian world to worry about whether or not to get a shadowbox.
If you are close to a veteran and have access to their DD Form 214, it can be easy to assemble a shadowbox online and order it. Having access to a veteran’s service records or actual awards and decorations can make things very easy. This is a very personal way to say thanks and these make great gifts on Veterans Day or during National Military Appreciation Month.
If you have a current military member in your life who is still serving and plans to make the military a career, purchasing a large shadowbox is a great way to say thanks so they can add to their box as their careers progress.
5. How to thank someone for their military service by listening
Veterans are living history and many have witnessed some of human history’s most memorable moments. Inviting veterans in your community to speak at a school for Veterans Day or Memorial Day is a touching way to say thanks for your service.
Many veterans are humbled by the opportunity to share their experiences. They don’t have to be war stories or tales of combat. A great majority of veterans have never seen war, but they still have amazing stories to tell. For example, some ferried presidents on Air Force or Marine One, and others maybe helped erect structures in the South Pole.
The key is to give them an opportunity to be heard. If you have a veteran at work, ask them to speak during a lunch-and-learn about their military service. The anecdotes will be great.
6. How to thank someone for their military service by giving of your time as a volunteer
There are numerous veteran-centric organizations that can use help. There are food banks that help military families experiencing food needs and there are organizations that help build customized homes for wounded veterans. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to pack food boxes or follow the instructions of a skilled tradesmen to move some wood from here to there. It does, however, take time.
Volunteering is a great way to thank someone for their military service. Time tends to be the most precious gift of all and helping by donating time doesn’t have to be a huge commitment.
Many organizations understand the time constraints facing adults and most won’t have you commit more than a handful of hours every month. This is also a great way to get your co-workers involved in community service project that might help a veteran.
7. How to thank someone for their military service by donating your expertise
If you’re a human-resources professional, veterans can use your help. You can review their resumes and offer tips or host workshops on interview skills. If you work with investments, offer workshops to veterans on where they should invest their money. If you’re a mechanic, free advice on how to make your car last will go a long way.
The point is, everyone has something to offer and they are knowledgeable about something. Sharing your expertise is a useful way to say thank you to someone for their military service. Posting an informative article or even just a simple post on professional networking social media sites or even just on social media can be helpful. Take advantage of Veterans Day or National Military Appreciation Month by using those hashtags and sharing your knowledge.
8. How to thank someone for their military service by being a mentor
Many veterans are used to having a mentor. First-term enlistees have squad or section leaders to turn to who help guide them on and off duty. When they leave the ranks, there is a mentorship void.
Mentoring a veteran is a great way to say thanks for your service. Maybe you are a third-year college student who knows his/her way around the college registration protocols or maybe you’re a co-worker who sees potential in a veteran, but they need a little guidance.
Stepping up and helping a veteran get acclimated is another way to show gratitude for those who have served. While veterans are resourceful, it doesn’t hurt to be inclusive and bring veterans into those circles where they might be underrepresented and where they can benefit from someone's knowledge.
9. How to thank someone for their military service at work
You don’t have to have military service in your background in order to help veterans. Most workplaces are rich with opportunities to help veterans transition from the ranks.
For example, maybe there is a former infantryman who wants to work in information technology (IT), but they cannot because they have no experience. Instead, they work as a customer service rep.
Helping create a training program where the veteran is allowed to train with IT a few hours per week can not only help retain a quality employee, the veteran, but it is a wonderful way to show appreciation for veterans at your workplace.
10. How to thank someone for their military service
Of course the simplest way to do it is to look them in the eye, say thank you for your service and shake their hands.