Veterans and service members may often experience difficulty when returning from active duty and preparing to re-enter civilian life. One way other citizens can show their gratitude to the men and women who have served is to assist them as they regain a foothold in civilian communities. While there are many charitable organizations as well as government-funded programs for assisting the nation’s veterans, there is also much you can do as an individual or as a part of your faith community to support veterans. Here are some ways you and your church can give back and lend a helping hand.
Make sure they feel welcome
One challenge many veterans face is feeling isolated or disconnected from civilian life. This can make it difficult for veterans to take their first steps into this new phase of their existence. It can also contribute to depression and other mental health burdens. Simply having someone spend time talking to them and, more importantly, listening, can make a significant difference for a veteran’s overall outlook. Invite them to join in community events, or to attend your church, if you feel they would find it fulfilling.
Help veterans find housing
Many veterans face the threat of eviction and even homelessness. It’s important to support legal or policy measures to protect veterans from being evicted from their homes. You can also donate to organizations that help provide veterans and service persons with housing. If you are acquainted with a veteran whose housing situation is precarious, see if you can help them navigate the real estate market. This might mean helping them with transportation, connecting them with helpful realtors, or fundraising to support them. Of course, you can point them towards applying for a VA loan, which will allow them to purchase a home with no down payment.
Help veterans find jobs
While veterans have many valuable and marketable job skills, they may not always know where to begin when it comes to launching new careers in their civilian lives. You can help a veteran in their job search by acquainting them with online job boards and accompanying them to recruitment events. Think about whether you have any business or social connections who could give a veteran a hand up. Also, see if they might be interested in enrolling in online classes or even returning to school to pursue a degree, building on their existing training.
Help veterans and service members achieve food security
Sadly, many veterans and even active service persons are low-income and have difficulty accessing nutritious food. Assisting anyone who is hungry is an act of kindness and charity, and in this case, it is also an act of gratitude. Supporting and donating to your local food bank is a great way to help veterans and others who are going hungry. You can also assist them by donating food or gift cards, or even by helping them establish vegetable gardens at their home or in a community plot.
Help veterans who are disabled or need medical assistance
Veterans experiencing disability or health concerns may feel especially isolated, so consider visiting them if they are residing in care facilities. You also can help them by driving them to medical appointments if they lack access to transportation. Consider donating to organizations that help disabled veterans, as well as helping them sign up for VA health care or other benefits. Work to promote policies to increase health care access for veterans in need, also.
There are many ways you can help veterans and service members feel more appreciated and cared for, less isolated, and abandoned. This can be a deeply meaningful way for you to invest your gifts and talents in your community. Do you feel called to ministry and outreach to veterans and service persons as part of your faith life?