11 Honorable Ways You Can Help Veterans
This Veterans Day, make a difference in the lives of former military members. Just thanking a veteran can go a long way, but an act of kindness means even more. Here are 11 ways you can show vets that you appreciate the sacrifices they made.
1. PICK UP THE TAB FOR THEIR COFFEE OR MEAL.
The next time you see a veteran in a restaurant or standing in line for coffee, pick up the tab. You can do so anonymously if you would prefer, but even a quick "thank you for your service" would mean a lot to the veteran. You don’t have to limit yourself to dinner or a latte—you could pay for a tank of gas, a prescription, or a cart of groceries.
2. DRIVE A VET TO A DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENT.
Many vets, especially those who are infirm or disabled, have trouble making it to their doctor appointments. If you have a driver’s license, you can volunteer for the Department of Veterans Affairs (DAV) Transportation Network, a service provided by all 197 VA medical facilities. To help, contact the hospital service coordinator [PDF] at your local VA Hospital.
3. TRAIN A SERVICE DOG.
Service dogs are a great help to veterans with mobile disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder, helping them rediscover physical and emotional independence. It takes approximately two years and $33,000 to properly train one service dog, so donations and training volunteers are critical. Even if you aren’t equipped to train a dog, some organizations need "weekend puppy raisers," which help service dogs learn how to socialize, play, and interact with different types of people.
4. REPLACE ONE LIGHT BULB WITH A GREEN ONE.
The "Greenlight a Vet" project is a simple way to remind yourself and others about the sacrifices veterans have made for our country, and to show your appreciation to them. Simply purchase a green bulb and place it somewhere in your home—a porch lamp is ideal since it’s most visible to others. Over 9 million people across the nation have logged their green lights into the project's nationwide map so far.
5. HELP SPONSOR AN HONOR FLIGHT.
Many of the veterans who fought for our freedoms have never seen the national memorials honoring their efforts—and their fallen friends. Honor Flights helps send veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam to Washington D.C. to see their monuments. You can help sponsor one of those flights for as little as $4.
6. WRITE A LETTER.
Operation Gratitude is an organization that coordinates care packages, gifts, and letters of thanks to veterans. You can work through them to send your appreciation to a vet, or volunteer to help assemble care packages. And, if you still have candy kicking around from Halloween, Operation Gratitude also mails sweets to deployed troops.
7. VOLUNTEER AT A VA HOSPITAL.
Whatever your talents are, they’ll certainly be utilized at a Veterans Hospital. From working directly with patients to helping with recreational programs or even just providing companionship, your local VA Hospital would be thrilled to have a few hours of your time.
8. GET INVOLVED WITH THE VETERANS ASSISTANCE PROGRAM.
There are no doubt veterans in your community that could use help—but how do you find them? Contact the Local Veterans Assistance Program. They’ll be able to put you in touch with local vets who need help doing chores like yard work, housework, grocery shopping, or running errands.
9. HELP THEM WITH JOB TRAINING.
Adjusting back to civilian life isn't always smooth sailing. Hire Heroes helps vets with interview skills, resumes, and training so they can find a post-military career. They even partner with various employers to host a job board. Through Hire Heroes, you can help veterans with mock interviews, career counseling, job searches, workshops, and more.
10. HELP BUILD A HOUSE.
Building Homes for Heroes builds or modifies homes to suit the needs of veterans injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. The houses are given mortgage-free to veterans and their families. You can volunteer your painting, carpentry, plumbing, wiring, and other skilled services—or you can just donate to the cause.
11. VOLUNTEER FOR A STAND DOWN.
The VA continually hosts Stand Downs, one- to three-day events that give much-needed supplies and services to homeless veterans. Vets can receive everything from food and clothing to health screenings, housing solutions, substance abuse treatment, and mental health counseling. They take place at various places across the nation all year long, so contact the representative in your state about when and how you can volunteer.