By Sarah Holzhalb
As the calendar turns to November and Veterans Day approaches, I inevitably receive beautiful text messages and calls from family and friends, thoughtfully asking what they can do to show their appreciation to those who have served this country. I’m honored they ask and desire to put their gratitude into sincere action, more than just saying, "Thank you."
The most precious gift we can give others is providing them with our time and attention. There are numerous ways you can dedicate your time and show your gratitude to veterans and their families year-round.
Community Activities and Volunteering
Share Time Together
Got a veteran in your life? Asking them about their service over a cup of coffee, a meal, or during a walk is an excellent opportunity for conversation and connection. How long did they serve? What was their job? Was anyone else in their family a veteran? Be respectful if a veteran doesn’t feel like talking too much. Sharing our stories involves a certain amount of trust - listen and thank them for what they share with you.
Attend a local Veteran's Day parade in your town or an event at a nearby VA hospital. Find volunteer opportunities in your area at the VA Voluntary Service Office, including driving/escorting veterans to their medical appointments, participating in recreational activities, and Homeless Stand Downs.
Lend a Hand
Provide family support to a veteran in your neighborhood by mowing their lawn, helping with yard work, delivering a home cooked meal, or some groceries.
Shop Local. Shop Veteran-Owned.
Remember Military and Working Service Dogs
Let’s not forget about our military working and service dogs. Working dogs have saved countless lives in combat and have sacrificed their lives for their human comrades. They, too, have unique needs as veterans. Service dogs provide critical safety and companionship to veterans.
Sponsor a Transitioning Service Member
While on active duty, service members are welcomed to a new installation with someone to guide them through the transition process. ETS Sponsorship rolls out that same welcome wagon for those service members transitioning to civilian life into their new post-military community of their choice. The program in partnership with the VA matches a transitioning service member with a sponsor within their new post-military community providing them mentorship and transition assistance. The ETS Sponsorship program is actively recruiting sponsors in your community. You can visit their website to enroll in their sponsorship training program and be matched with a transitioning service member.
Pass the Word about America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP) Programs
AWP programs support the evolving needs of veterans. Proactive outreach, inclusive engagement, and access to holistic services through community collaboration are imperative to veterans' success and overall well-being. Reaching them before a crisis occurs and helping them achieve an improved quality of life – this is where AWP fills the gap.
Every year through our Annual Survey, veterans share with us what they need to feel engaged, supported, and hopeful. Those needs span from recreational activities, connections with other veterans, volunteer opportunities, support with housing, mental health care, and day-to-day financial responsibilities. America's Warrior Partnership continues to connect veterans, their families, and their caregivers to resources that help them live the highest quality of life possible.
Our 2020 survey revealed:
61% of veterans receive disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
19% of veterans have pending claims.
51% of veterans are not currently active in community events.
14% of veterans are unable to work due to injury or illness.
40% of veterans, families, and caregivers connect to veteran-focused service providers from referrals.
Understanding veterans' needs and how you may support them within your community is crucial in positively impacting their lives and that of their families.
The Network is just the sort of program that unites veterans, their families, and community resources.
The Network is AWP's national coordination platform that expands local veteran organizations' reach by connecting them to national resources. The Network understands each veteran's unique situation and connects them to their community, ensuring holistic support. When a community cannot meet a need, The Network coordinates with their vetted national partners to offer support. If you know of a veteran that needs help connecting to resources, refer them to The Network. They can reach 24-hour support at 1-866-AWPVETS. You can check out success stories on the positive impact of The Network on our blog.
Strengthened social and community relationships alleviate the risks that result from a lack of connection, such as depression and isolation. Coming together in our communities to understand veteran needs and authentic discussions with each other are uniting factors. Operation Deep Dive is a community-based suicide prevention study of former service members in 15 states across the country. The study identifies community-based factors that can develop an upstream approach to enhancing programs that improve former service members' quality of life. These programs can reduce risk factors associated with their suicides and non-natural deaths.
This groundbreaking study is a partnership between AWP and researchers from the University of Alabama, funded by a grant from the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation. The study examines how the deceased former service member was engaged within their community and how that community can provide better support to prevent suicide for other service members. If you know of a family affected by the suicide or unnatural death of their service member and may be willing to share their story with us, please let them know about Operation Deep Dive here.
Donate to a Veteran-Serving Organization
If you choose to donate financially to a veteran service non-profit, please ensure you do your research. More than 40,000 charities are related to serving veterans, and it can be daunting to know where to start. Find an organization whose mission interests you and one in which you would be excited to be involved. The organization needs to be dedicated to fiscal responsibility and transparency and spend most of its funding on its programs, not fundraising activities or general administrative expenses.
On November 2, AWP kicked off our Empower Veterans year-end giving campaign to provide hope, proactively engage and support community services for veterans and their families nationwide. By incorporating Veterans Day in our campaign, we raise awareness for our partnerships with companies, organizations, and communities to help veterans live the purposeful life they desire. With 96 cents of every dollar donated going directly to our programs, you can feel confident that your generous contribution will sustain valuable programs and services that veterans rely on to energize and inspire them and their families.
No matter how you choose to honor Veterans Day, taking the time to understand and share the resources available in your community and at your fingertips with others is the best way to give thanks to veterans and their families.