(BPT) - At the airport, you take a moment to thank a solider in uniform who is returning home. On Veterans Day, you hold up a sign at your town’s parade to let those who have served know how much you care. Throughout the year, whenever you encounter veterans or someone currently serving in the armed forces, you show your appreciation for their service.
Most Americans truly feel grateful to U.S. service personnel and take steps to express that gratitude. But what do you do for the families of veterans and active-duty, guard and reserve personnel? In many ways, these families sacrifice as much as their loved ones in service to the country.
It’s just as important to support military and veteran families; they are the reason their loved ones fight and their inspiration for returning home safely. Many military families cope with the emotional and physical injuries their loved ones in the service come home with. A stable, loving family can help a veteran make the difficult transition from active duty to civilian life, or help an active-duty person return home after deployment.
These families face significant hardships in support of their loved ones in military service. Forty-three percent of military families have moved three or more times in the past 10 years, according to a survey of military families, conducted by Vet Tix. These frequent moves cause difficulties for children adjusting to new schools, spouses finding jobs, and making new friends.
Everyone can make a difference for veterans, members of the military and their families. Here are ideas for meaningful ways to show your support:
Help them make memories
Veterans’ and military families often face financial challenges that can make it difficult to afford simple luxuries other Americans take for granted, such as attending a concert, show or sporting event. The ticket price for a game can easily exceed $200 for a family of four. In fact, the Vet Tix survey found cost was the main reason military and veteran families were unable to participate in entertainment opportunities.
You can help a military or veteran family make special memories and attend the show or event of their dreams by donating tickets or funds to Vet Tix. The organization provides tickets for sporting events, concerts, performing arts and family activities to verified members of all branches of currently serving military and veterans. The impact of the donation often goes far beyond a single day of fun.
For example, a Vietnam veteran living in Florida used tickets from Vet Tix to help rebuild ties with his wife and children. After he successfully reconnected with his family and community, the man’s doctor wrote a letter to the organization thanking them for helping lower the veteran’s PTSD-related anxiety.
“Many veterans face financial challenges while making the transition from military to civilian life," says Joel DeLand, a U.S. Army veteran from Chicago. "Long-lasting psychological effects from military service can cause veterans to isolate themselves from others when they return home. I've personally used Vet-Tix-provided tickets to reconnect with friends by attending local events together."
Help care for their best friends
When military service people deploy overseas, some will have to leave behind a beloved pet. Not everyone will have a family member or friend who is able and willing to take in the service person’s pet for an extended period of time.
You can help by donating to an organization that fosters pets for active-duty military, such as Dogs on Deployment or Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet. You can also volunteer to foster a pet. These national organizations work to match members of the military who need foster care for their pets with families around the country willing to care for them. If you live near a military base, you can also contact the base’s command to see if they have a local program in place.
Help care for the whole family
Every member of a military or veteran family can benefit from support. You can help discharged veterans and military spouses by volunteering to be a career mentor. Contact the Armed Services YMCA to see if you can volunteer as a teacher’s aide for preschools and after-school programs that serve military families in your area.
Reach out to your local veterans or military support organizations and ask about adopting a military family. “Adoption” can be as simple as writing personal emails or letters of support, or offering financial help for specific needs, such as buying school clothes and supplies for children, or gifts during the holidays.
For a super-easy way to help, simply log on to Operation Homefront’s Amazon page where you can purchase and donate a backpack for a child in a military family.