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A Simple Sacrifice: Easy and Affordable Ways to Help Veterans and Service Members

BY Kelli Brewer

Serving in America’s military is an honor and a patriotic sacrifice, but it comes at a cost. A great many of our veterans and service members bear the physical marks and mental scars of their service and carry them into private life. It’s a sad state of affairs that the government for which they served sometimes isn’t able to help meet their needs, and many suffer for it. Job loss, divorce, alcoholism, and dislocation are often the result. It’s up to members of a grateful public to give our veterans a helping hand. There are many ways to help without spending a lot of money or time.

‘Thank you’ packages

Simple conveniences and reminders of home are always welcome surprises for service members deployed overseas. Magazines, journals, socks, underwear, toiletries, and food items are simple, inexpensive ways to brighten a soldier’s day. Bear in mind that “thank you” packages can take months to reach a deployed service members, many of whom may be serving in warm and far-flung climates, so opt for nonperishable food items (coffee and candy are coveted items). As you shop for care package items, watch for opportunities to save money: look for online deals, promo codes or in-store bargains.

Support those who support

Contributing to or volunteering with organizations that provide support for veterans is another easy way to help out. TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), Give an Hour, and the USO are just a few of the groups that could use your help. These organizations pair struggling veterans with volunteer mental health professionals, help service members stay connected with their families, and much more. Even a nominal financial donation helps and may even be tax deductible. Or you could volunteer with one of the many groups that train therapy dogs for former service members, such as Canines for Combat Veterans.

Provide employment access

Returning service members often struggle with finding work, which can place a huge strain on a marriage that may already be in crisis. In fact, approximately 3.5 percent of veterans are unemployed. If you’re a business owner, or a veteran who knows someone who can help, consider hiring recently returned soldiers or sailors. It’s a good way to help them reintegrate into civilian life and make a new life for their families.

Finding employment also instills a sense of self-confidence and purpose during a time when many are unsure what to do with themselves after months, or years, of grueling and dangerous overseas service. And don’t forget that the government provides tax credits and reimbursements for companies that hire veterans.

Lend an ear

Spending time with a veteran who lacks companionship is an excellent way to provide active support. It costs nothing and you’ll benefit from the experience. Just letting them talk about their experiences and problems is therapeutic and greatly appreciated. You needn’t have served in the military and don’t need to know much about military matters. And don’t worry about offering solutions to their problems; just paying attention is what really matters.

Small favors

Veterans and service members have simple everyday responsibilities, which can be difficult to keep up with for people who may be thousands of miles away. You can relieve some of the strain by offering to mow and clean a veteran’s yard. It’s a simple, inexpensive gesture and it’ll only take a couple of hours. If physical work is difficult for you, offer to cook meals a couple of times a week.

 

Think of helping a veteran or service member as a form of patriotic sacrifice, a way for everyone to pitch in and make a difference. A few dollars or a couple of hours of personal time is a reasonable expectation for the people who benefit from the dedication and courage of America’s military.