On Veterans Day, many Americans have difficulty finding the best way to thank a veteran, but simply being a friend to a veteran may be the best strategy.
If you just go by the advertising you see, you might get the impression that Veterans Day is all about discounts on fall fashions. Meanwhile, many restaurants and other venues have a custom of offering special deals and discounts to vets and members of the armed forces.
But what’s the best way to thank the veterans of our Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard?
In recent years it’s become more popular to offer a polite “Thanks for your service” when we encounter someone who has worn the uniform of our country. This is a welcome gesture for those of us who remember a time when the toil and sacrifice of our service men and women was less appreciated.
Veterans make up a significant part of the families we serve at Caring Hearts and we’re well acquainted with the challenges many of them face as they grow older. We know from talking to them as well as the veterans in our own families that there is no single one thing they like to hear. Some are grateful for the acknowledgment, others a little embarrassed, and still some feel that any honor should be directed to their comrades who sacrificed more than they did.
Get to know them.
Maybe the best way to thank veterans is to get to know them. I’m not suggesting that when you see someone wearing the hat or pin of their service that this in an invitation to interview them at length. Rather seek out and befriend the veterans in your own community and in your extended family. Many don’t like to talk about their time in the service, so respect that, but make it clear that your appreciation does not end when they take off the uniform. Let them know that we appreciate them not only for their sacrifice but for the many contributions they have made and continue to make here and now.
Spread awareness of veterans care benefits.
One way to show appreciation is to become familiar with the issues that affect our veterans. Pay attention for opportunities to affect legislative and administrative decisions that touch on veterans’ services and care. And become an advocate for just one or all of them as they negotiate the hassles and paperwork to receive just what is due to them: our respect.
Many Caring Hearts offices partner with Veterans Care Coordination, an organization that advocates for individual vets to ensure that they receive the benefits they’ve been promised—namely, the Aid & Attendance benefit that helps veterans and their spouses pay for services like in-home senior care. Often, we find that the families of veterans are not familiar with some of these specific programs that can ease the strain on both their loved one and themselves
Whatever is your way, Veterans Day is a great time to start making an effort to get to know a veteran in your life. But let’s not let this become just an annual event. Let's make honor and respect are a year-round practice.