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5 Ways to Thank a Veteran

According to recent research from the George W. Bush Institute, 71 percent of Americans say they have little understanding of the issues facing post-9/11 veterans, and veterans agree: 84 percent say that the public has “little awareness” of the issues facing them and their families.

Article by David Smith November 6, 2017 //   5 minute read
President Bush with two service members at Invictus 2016.

Like many of my fellow post-9/11 veterans I struggled to find my path and purpose after completing my service, and had a hard time connecting with those who had not served, likewise I sometimes found that civilians also had a hard time connecting with me. 

According to recent research from the George W. Bush Institute, 71 percent of Americans say they have little understanding of the issues facing post-9/11 veterans, and veterans agree: 84 percent say that the public has “little awareness” of the issues facing them and their families. 

I have not only seen these numbers play out as I was searching for a job, but also with the frequently asked question, “How can I do more to thank our nation’s veterans?” So, here are a few creative ways to say “thank you.” 

Volunteer your time at the VA or other service organizations

The military is built around the desire to serve. If you really want to make veterans proud or show your support, step up in your local community. Find something that you are passionate about and give your time. Whether it’s in a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, a community project, your local church, or somewhere else, your service is wanted and needed by the world around you. There’s no better way to say, “Thank you for your service” than by paying it forward and serving in your local community. 

Donate money or resources

Just as much as organizations need volunteers, they need money to fund their programs. If it’s within your means to do so, donating money to an organization of your choice is a fantastic way to show your support. It doesn’t have to be a big sum, either. Every dollar counts and nobody will ever look down on you for donating, regardless of the amount. A great way to get started with this is to visit Charity Navigator or similar sites to learn about what organizations’ missions align with your ideals. 

Mentor veterans in your area

Are you experienced in some field of business or otherwise have some powerfully helpful advice for transitioning veterans? If so, mentoring a service member might be a fantastic way for you to give back. 

If not for the many mentors I have had in life, there’s no way that I would be where I am today. I greatly respect, value and appreciate those who helped me along the road during transition and I still use mentors today to help me clarify, set, and achieve goals.

Hire a veteran

Few things that you can do have the same long-term impact as hiring a veteran into your company. Hiring veterans is a savvy business move that will allow you to bring on purpose-driven people who will go the extra mile to exceed targets. Veterans bring an incredible array of talents and abilities into the workplace and can make a great addition to your team. Whether it’s through an internship or full-time employment, many veterans from all ranges of the career spectrum are looking for their next mission. 

If you are unable to make hiring decisions, career coaching, mock interviews and employment workshops are also excellent ways to help veterans understand the value that their military skills bring to companies around the globe. 

Send care packages overseas

When I was deployed, we loved receiving care packages from all across the country, and when we first went into combat we received them regularly. Nowadays, there are still many service members serving all around the world, far away from friends and loved ones throughout every holiday of the year. Sometimes, the best way to say “thank you for your service” can be simply sending letters, cards, or gifts from home to military members deployed overseas. 

A simple web search will reveal everything you need to know about what, how, and where to send care packages. Some of my personal favorites included personal notes, drawings from children, drink mix, wet wipes, t-shirts, holiday decorations, and international phone cards. 

Regardless of how you choose to say “thank you,” it is always appreciated. Whether you do it through time, volunteering, gifts, or other means, it can really make a significant impact on military service members and their families. Most importantly, please know that none of us sign up for a “thank you,” we do it out of a desire to serve the country we love and it is our honor to serve the American people.