Military veterans can face many challenging issues when transitioning back into a civilian lifestyle. From applying to jobs and re-establishing relationships with family and friends to creating new routines and structure, veterans need support when facing these unique challenges. According to the United States Census, there were over 18 million military veterans in the United States in 2018. Of those veterans that are transitioning back into civilian life, 1,853 were surveyed in a recent Pew Research Center survey in which 27% of veterans said re-entry into civilian life was difficult for them.
Giving back to our band of brothers goes beyond just celebrating Memorial Day and Veterans Day, it means giving the time back to them that they gave to us by stepping out on the front lines to protect and fight for our country. Find out how you can give back to veterans in by checking out some of the organizations and services below.
1. Visit a Vet Regularly
Visiting a wounded veteran in the hospital, nursing home or even in their own home is a meaningful way to show a small act of kindness and gratitude for those who’ve served for our country. Some Veterans don’t have a family or have family that can’t visit them easily, so a visit from an unexpected yet soon-to-be friend is a nice surprise. You can bring board games, share stories and even invite your friends and family to visit a Veteran as well. Sharing one-on-one time with someone who has sacrificed so much so that many of us can live freely, is just a special way to say thank you for all that they’ve done. This can even be a teaching moment for a lesson in history; you never know what kind of story lies within a Vet.
2. Purchase from a Brand That Supports Veterans Causes
Companies like Black Rifle Coffee, Boldfoot, Hero Clean and Oscar Mike are just a few of the hundreds of companies that support and give back to veteran causes. From Vodka and coffee to socks and cleaning supplies, the list of products you can purchase that give back directly to Veterans is endless. Many companies donate a percentage of sales to Military and vets in need, while other companies will send one product to a Vet for every product bought. Not only do these companies directly support vets, but many of their products are also made in the USA. For a bigger list of companies and the products that both support and give back to Veterans, check out this article.
3. Thank You
Short, sweet and simple. A “thank you” really does go a long way. Whether you pass a veteran or someone in the Military on the street, in the market or at the gas station, a quick thank you and a smile will go much further than you think. Remember that saying “a smile is contagious”? Smile and thank a Vet the next time you see them and know that you’ve made their day. Want to take your gratitude a step further? Offer to buy their meal at a restaurant or their coffee in line at a Starbucks. Five minutes of your day can make an impact of a lifetime on someone else.
4. Tell a Veteran’s Story
The Library of Congress is always looking to tell a veteran’s story. Stories from WWI, Cold War, Vietnam War and more are of the utmost importance in keeping history alive and factual. To help cement a veteran’s honor in history, you can interview them and submit their story. Keep the interview interesting by filming it like a documentary and incorporate original keepsakes or journals that your interviewee has kept over the years. Their legacy will be recorded for years to come, one that can be shared outside the bounds of their family members. Not only will you be helping a true war hero relive and tell his story of his time on the front lines, but you’ll also make a new friend in the process.
5. Donate Extra Air Miles
Are you a frequent flier? Or someone who has extra air miles just laying around? Put those miles to good use and donate them. Hero Miles is looking for “unused or unwanted airline mileage to provide round-trip airline tickets to wounded, injured, and ill service members and/or their families who are undergoing treatment at a military or VA medical center; or who are attending an authorized event.” If you don’t have extra miles to donate, you can also make a monetary donation as 100% of the donations go straight to helping a veteran fly. Airlines that help participate in transferring your extra mileage are Alaskan Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines and United Airlines. To date, Hero Miles has provided more than 70,000 tickets to Veteran families, worth over $105 million.
6. Build a Bond Between a Pet and a Vet
Nothing says friendship like a dog and a veteran, and Pets for Vets helps to see that friendship flourish. Connecting military Veterans and rescue animals opens the door for second chances and new beginnings. Pets for Vets takes the time to get to know both the pet and the Veteran to make sure they’re a good match before bringing them together. Hoping to form a super bond, the rescue pet provides the vet with support, ease and most importantly, unconditional love. You can donate to Pets for Vets in a multitude of ways by donating money, a vehicle, a pet, or just your time. The company accepts many volunteers as a grant writer, social media assistant, event planner, dog trainer, veterinarian and more.
7. Donate an Old Cell Phone
The most common thing to do with an old phone after replacing it is to throw it away. However, you might want to think twice. Instead of tossing your old phone, you can help support a Veteran by sending it to Cell Phones For Soldiers. This national nonprofit organization provides “cost-free communication services and emergency funding to active-duty military members and veterans.” Newer, gently used cell phones, including smartphones from any carrier can be donated to this organization. They also accept broken phones as they can help you recycle safely and responsibly. Charges and cell phone accessories such as cases and latches are also welcomed to donate. They also walk you through erasing personal data from your old phone. Since 2004 Cell Phones For Soldiers has provided more than 300 million minutes of free talk, recycled more than 15 million cell phones and has mailed 1,500 calling cards each week.
8. Write a Letter and Send a Care Package
Show your support to veterans, Wounded Warriors, new recruits, first responders and care givers everywhere by writing a letter of gratitude and sending a care package. Operation Gratitude is nonprofit organization that was founded in 2003 by a volunteer at a military lounge at the Los Angeles airport. Since 2003, this organization has sent over 300,000 personally addressed care packages that contain hygiene products, handmade items, snacks, entertainment and letters of support and gratitude. Showing your appreciation is as easy as sending a vet or soldier in need the essentials that we take for granted every day. Most recently, Operation Gratitude has partnered with The Starbucks Foundation to help deliver up to 50,000 care packages, handwritten letters and bulk donations to Military Personnel, First Responders and Health Care Workers.
9. Drive a Vet to an Appointment
With over 5 million disabled vets in the United States, medical appointments and benefit claims are a necessity to those veterans in need. You can volunteer to drive a vet through DAV Transportation Network to “ensure those living remotely from VA hospitals can make their appointments and never go without the treatment they need.” DAV also accepts donations of old or extra vehicles to help those vets in need of a vehicle. In addition to donating your time to driving a Vet or donating a vehicle, you can search for local volunteer opportunities through DAV to assist with anything from yard work and home maintenance to sports rehabilitation and grocery shopping; the opportunities to give back are endless.
10. Donate Unwanted Clothing and Household Items
Donate any clothing and household items to Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) through ClothingDonations.org. VVA is a national veterans service organization that serves to provide essentials and necessities to veterans throughout the United States and beyond. Your job is simple: Go through your closet and make a donation pile of clothing, shoes, hats, belts and other forms of fashion that you haven’t worn in a while or are just willing to donate. Do the same for household items that you no longer use in your kitchen or living room. Once you’re ready to donate, call to schedule a pick-up and place the donations outside of your house for a Clothing Donations truck to collect. It’s that easy!
Have you donated your time or materials to any of the organizations above? If you have, we want to know more about it. Tag us on social with #SpecOpsGivesBack to share your story with us.