We have special days to honor our military service members, and observing these holidays is an important way to recognize their contribution to our nation and our lives. However, what if you want to do more for service members, veterans, and their families? These are just a few of the many ways that anyone can give back to those who serve.
Make a Career Out of Service
Even for those of us who aren’t in the military, there are amazing job opportunities for people who want to help those who serve us. For example, social work is a broad field that helps veterans in many ways. Social workers with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provide discharge planning and help veterans get connected to housing and job opportunities. Or, you may provide counseling for mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Becoming a social worker requires a four-year degree, and most social workers also complete a Masters of Social Work program. Many programs can be completed online through accredited US universities. In addition to coursework, most of these programs also require about 900 to 1,200 hours of fieldwork, which helps you get a feel for real-life experiences.
Get Active in Your Community
Military families and veterans need these crucial services, but they also need regular people in their community to step up and help them out on occasion. One group of veterans who can benefit from a helping hand are seniors. Senior veterans often struggle with understanding the benefits they have through the VA system and how Medicare plays a role in their overall healthcare. If there’s a senior vet in your life, reach out and ask how they’re doing. Make sure they’re getting the healthcare they need, and ask if you can help them figure out all the different systems.
Unfortunately, it’s also common for older adults to be lonely. One of the simplest things you can do is spend time with senior veterans. Visit a senior center, or call your local VA office to ask if they have volunteer opportunities. Sometimes the biggest impact you can make is by lending an ear and reminding someone they’re valued.
Military spouses and other family members are also groups who can always use a little extra support and encouragement. If you know someone whose spouse is deployed, one of the best things you can do is listen to them. The blog Military Spouse says you should reach out first — let them know you’re there whenever they need you. You can also do something kind that helps make life a little easier, like taking them a meal or babysitting their children.
Express Gratitude — Near and Far
We all say we support our troops, but one way you can turn that support into action is by outwardly expressing your gratitude. If you don’t personally know a service member who is deployed, there are organizations like Operation Gratitude that help you send care packages and letters to service members and veterans.
Along with letters of gratitude, you can also send items to the troops to help them out. Family Education suggests sending electronics and tech gear such as cell phones and MP3 players, as well as calling cards so they can call home. Another option is to organize a drive to collect these items or monetary donations for an organization like the USO, which helps service members and their families. We can only give so much as individuals, but when you organize a fundraiser or drive, you multiply the amount that’s given.
Whether you’re thinking about your future and a career of service, or you take smaller actions like reaching out to someone you know, any help you can give will make a difference. We should all remember our troops on those special days, but there’s so much more we can do. Their service is ongoing, and they need our support all year long.
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