I had the privilege to photograph a soldier’s homecoming last night and it was the perfect way to start Veterans Day. Yes, I drove an hour and a half each way in the middle of the night to be there when he came home, but that’s nothing compared to the sacrifices he, his family and thousands of others who have served have paid.
We have a long history of service in our family, including my grandfather who served in WWII, my brother-in-law who put in 20 years with the Navy, his two sons who carry the torch in ROTC – one of whom will soon be attending Navy flight school, my retired Coastie hubby and his Pop who served as a Navy fighter pilot and performed several of the flight scenes for Top Gun! And we have friends in just about every other branch of the military, as well.
It takes a different kind of person to serve. I knew I wasn’t suited for military service, but I support those who do, regardless of the politics. And I thank them, sincerely. To me, they are the backbone of our country, not those who call the shots in DC.
America has many problems, and one of our biggest is forgetting our veterans. They endure hardships and trauma in the name of our freedom and return changed in ways they can’t even explain. Many are able to find their own way to cope with the help of friends and family, but unfortunately thousands don’t and end up suffering even more once they are home. There are many programs out there to help, although they are often overwhelmed with demand and not enough resources. So I encourage you to think about small things you could do to serve those who have served and are still serving for you. They don’t expect a hand out, but they will truly appreciate the small things such as:
- Visit a local veterans nursing home and talk with the residents. You will be amazed at the stories they have to tell.
- Invite a local military family to join your holiday celebrations. Often times they are stationed far away from family and miss having a large group to gather with.
- Cook a meal for those staying at a Fisher House. They are often consumed with the details of their loved one’s treatment that they forget to take care of themselves.
- Offer to babysit so an active duty member can an enjoy a little alone time with his or her spouse – or so that spouse of a deployed member can have a break from the constant demand of parenting solo.
- Tackle a few home maintenance tasks for a disabled veteran who is unable to perform them. But let him or her help if they want – it will make them feel useful and capable despite their injury.
- Have a yard sale and donate the proceeds to programs like Wounded Warrior, Fisher House, Honor and Remember. Even if it’s a small amount, it helps.
- Help organize, fund raise or donate airline miles for local veterans to take an honor flight. If you live in the areas of the memorials they visit offer to cook a meal for the group or host them if you have room.
- Raise or help train a service dog for a veteran. The programs that do this will support you in doing so.
- Foster a single service member’s pet while they are deployed. It will give them the peace of mind they need to focus on the tasks at hand.
These are just a few ideas. You could also contact local organizations like the USO, VFW and VA to ask what specific needs might exist in your community. But perhaps the easiest thing to do is to thank active and retired military members and their families for their service when you see them in the community. They may only briefly acknowledge your comment because they see their service as normal every day life, but I promise that taking the time to acknowledge them resonates on a deeper level and they do appreciate it.