Ways to give back this Veterans Day
My partner and I were making plans for the holidays the other day - which is often tricky given his Active Duty Military status. He’s been assigned a new unit which always carries a bit of ambiguity. For example, he won’t know until the day before Thanksgiving whether he will be able to fly with me to visit family or remain on post (or potentially face deployment.) We’ve grown accustomed to the uncertainties of his job and worked our life around it, but this year the gravity of his obligation hit me more profoundly: It isn’t just this Thanksgiving…it’s every single holiday/birthday/wedding/graduation. Every precious life moment that he, and others in his position, miss in their call to duty.
When many of us think of the men and women serving our country, we think of the battlefield and physical sacrifice. Many of us don’t realize that to “put one’s life on the line” also means to give up many different aspects of that life in the name of service. Those of us in the civilian world don’t begin to grasp just how much the men and women serving our country put aside to keep us safe. Or how difficult it becomes to weave all the loose ends back together again when they transition out of service and back into the civilian world. There are bonds that need to be reformed, relationships that need to be nurtured, and a different sort of work/life balance to adjust to.
This year for Veterans Day, I encourage us, as individuals and broader communities, to give back to those who have given so much of their own personal freedom for the sake of ours. There are many meaningful ways to show these heroes and their families how much we care. I’ve shared some ideas below, but encourage all readers to get creative and check within their local communities for more options.
Share the beauty of nature
Get involved in sharing an uplifting experience in the great outdoors! There are numerous organizations that offer a range of recreational activities to service members and their families that can be healing, transformative, relaxing and fun for all. Provide camaraderie and community to others in a beautiful setting.
Here is an initial list of some amazing organizations worth checking out and getting involved with:
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing – This is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled military service personnel through fly fishing and outdoor education and outings.
Warrior Expeditions - This program is aimed at providing a healing space and environment for transition. Warrior Expeditions provides veterans with everything they need to complete a long-distance outdoor expedition at no cost to the veteran. During the outdoor expedition, which usually lasts between three and six months, veterans are given the opportunity to decompress from their military service and come to terms with their wartime experiences.
Team River Runner - This organization provides all veterans and their families with a sense of community and adventure through adaptive paddle sports (there are chapters nationwide)!
Warriors at Ease – This is a yoga and meditation focused health and resiliency program offering teacher training, workshops and retreats (in inspiring locations like Hawaii) to provide connection and well-being for veterans and their families.
Give the gift of time
Whether it’s volunteering time to help with taxes, delivering groceries, or providing childcare for a military family, one of the most precious gifts to offer is time: one’s own, as well as time back in the day to someone who needs it! Create the Good offers some great ways to get involved locally and DAV offers an application through their website to connect interested volunteers with local service members who may need some extra assistance.
Remember that friends come in all shapes & sizes
Animals are some of the most supportive and loyal friends we can have. Connect a veteran with a battle buddy through fostering a Canine Companion via the Wounded Veterans Initiative. This program provides highly trained assistance dogs to war veterans with disabilities to help them regain their independence. The service is free of charge and provides lifetime support. Individuals and families can foster these pups which requires taking them to training sessions, socialization and helping pups practice assistance skills until they are ready to join their future companion.
These ideas are just the beginning. There are many, many more ways to give back that I haven’t even begun to list here. The Wounded Warrior Project, VFW, Salute America’s Heroes, Fisher House Foundation, US Department of Veterans Affairs and our own WilsonHCG Operation Transition website all offer fantastic ways to make a positive impact for military service personnel and their families. Show your gratitude by giving back.