As Americans, most of us want to honor the brave men and women who volunteer to put their lives on the line for their country as well as those who served in decades past. But we don’t always know what to do or say, and sometimes fall back on the simple “Thank you for your service.” While that expression of gratitude may be the first to our lips, it sometimes seems a bit reflexive and hollow to the veteran on the receiving end. Can we suggest some other ways to show your respect and support?
Ask the right questions. It’s good to show interest by asking questions such as the service member’s or veteran’s branch of the service, job in the service and era of service. Take your cue from the veteran, and back off if the veteran appears not to want to talk about experiences, traumatic or otherwise. If he or she does want to talk about it, simply listen. Never ask for details about combat or whether the veteran had to kill someone or witnessed people dying. Know that a Special Forces member will have participated in missions that they cannot and will not speak about, so don’t go there.
Know some basics. It can be annoying for those in the military and veterans when civilians demonstrate ignorance of some military terms. For instance, those in the Air Force, Navy and Marines are not soldiers! They are airmen, sailors and Marines. Only those in the Army are soldiers. Special Forces soldiers are in the Army and also known as Green Berets, but the Navy and Marines also have Special Forces units. If you’re in doubt, use terms that apply to all, such as military member, service member or veteran.
Jobs and freebies. If you are in a position to hire people, or know someone who is, consider veterans who might need a job or a better job. If you own a retail business or service business, consider offering discounts for veterans, and not just on Veterans Day.
Donate time and/or money. VA hospitals often need volunteers, and service organizations like The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and others that are organized locally could perhaps use your help. Outdoor recreation is great therapy for veterans, so offer an outdoor adventure to a veteran. There are also dozens of runs and walks that raise money and awareness for veterans every year, and hundreds of non-profits that can use monetary support.
If you’ve decided to donate money, please consider Special Forces Charitable Trust. We are a 501(c)3 that serves a specific group: Green Berets — past and present — and their families. We provide meaningful and sustainable support to families. You can learn more on our redesigned website here. We consider it a great honor to serve those who have served. To all our donors: Thank you for making it possible!