Most Americans will never serve in the military or fight for their country. Yet there are countless ways that everyone can help people who have, who often return home from war to face their most difficult battles.
Many of those who have served our country return with injuries, trauma, or have needs that other Americans might not have. Those severely injured may need to learn how to live with the loss of a limb or limited mobility. For others, brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder can make the return to civilian life a struggle. We have the opportunity to help them.
Here are nine simple things you can do to make a difference for the more than 23 million American veterans:
- Give a veteran a ride: Medical care may be needed for some veterans for the rest of their lives. Disabled American Veterans provides free transportation to men and women who can’t travel to Veterans Affairs medical facilities on their own. You can volunteer to drive a van for those who need a lift.
- Donate frequent flier miles: The Fisher House Foundation has a network of homes on the grounds of military and VA hospitals around the country. These homes help family members be close during the hospitalization of a loved one for a combat injury, illness or disease. Fisher House operates the Hero Miles Program, using donated frequent flier miles to bring family members to the bedside of injured service members. You can also volunteer or donate household items.
- Sponsor a companion dog for veterans with PTSD: More than a third of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have or will experience post-traumatic stress disorder. And veterans of past wars are still dealing with the ghosts of their time in the service. Coping with PTSD can put stress on not just veterans but also their families and friends. Puppies Behind Bars is a program in which prisoners train companion dogs for veterans with PTSD. Donors can sponsor a dog and receive updates on the dog’s training and life with its veteran.
(If you know a veteran dealing with PTSD, the VA offers the PTSD Coach Online to help veterans learn to manage symptoms, discover ways to cope and, find professional help.)