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10 Nicest Things Strangers Have Done to Say ‘Thank You’ to Veterans

You can't help but smile (and maybe shed a tear) at some of the heartwarming ways strangers have given back to those who have fought for their country.


Surprise donor

John Branson noticed Edgar Roberts’ Vietnam marine cap in a local Cracker Barrel. The veteran was sitting alone, so Branson shared a meal with the 70 year old and chatted about his son, who was getting ready to graduate from the Naval Academy. Over the course of the conversation, Roberts explained he had been on dialysis for five years after losing both his kidneys to cancer. After the two parted ways, Branson got tested and found out he was an organ match, and offered to donate his kidney to Roberts. They hope to do the life-saving surgery in May, according to Fox59. Try one of these 30 acts of kindness you can do in under two minutes.


Big money

Army veteran John Neely had been a member of Gateway Church in Shelbyville, Tennessee, for about 13 years, but lately he’d been too sick to attend services often. He’d had Parkinson’s disease for about four years and was diagnosed with throat cancer in January 2017. But when his pastor convinced him to try to make it to a service one Sunday, he made the trip. During the service, he was invited onstage and surprised with a $19,460 check for his medical expenses. The funds were raised at an auction through Josh Lynch of Athena Broadband, according to the Times-GazetteYou can do these simple acts of kindness at any time–try them yourself!

tombstonesEyeLights West/Shutterstock

“The Good Cemeterian”

After veterans pass away, a tombstone might be the only thing left honoring them. But after decades of mold, mildew, and weather damage, those gravestones can be nearly impossible to read. Bothered that veterans’ final resting places were under decaying stones, Andrew Lumish decided to do something about it. The owner of a specialty upholstery and carpet cleaning business took his cleanup talents to the cemetery. Now he spends his Sundays—his only day off—cleaning veterans’ headstones in Tampa, Florida. “If they can’t read it at all, they can’t celebrate it, they can’t honor that person, they can’t appreciate that person,” Lumish told CBS News. You can check out the before-and-after shots on his Facebook page, The Good Cemetarian. (This is why Veterans Day doesn’t have an apostrophe.)

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Home comfort

At 110, Richard Overton is the oldest known living World War II veteran. He built his home from the ground-up more than 60 years ago and desperately wanted to live out his days there instead of a nursing home. Hoping to grant his wish, the veteran’s third cousin, Volma Overton, made a GoFundMe page to raise money for 24-hour care in the comfort of his own home. “That house has so much to do with his happiness, his joy and his love for humanity and everything else,” she told CNBC. By its second day online, the page reached $50,000 in donations. Now, it’s raised more than $167,000 to keep Richard Overton at home. These are the 12 best things people have done to help their neighbors.


It takes a village

With rates of homeless veterans rising, the Veterans Community Project decided to create a neighborhood of 50 tiny houses in Kansas City, Missouri. The 240-square-foot homes in Veterans Village cost just $10,000 each to build, according to The Kansas City Star. A community center on the property gives the veterans living there counseling, case management, and other resources.

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One vet to another

Cold War Navy veteran Richard Vreeland was exhausted from having to fix his mailbox every time snow blown from a plow knocked it down. Even though the disabled 75 year old tried fixing the problem by moving the mailbox and building a steel reinforcement, he’d found it ruined about seven times over the past decade. When fellow veteran Chad Christman read about Vreeland’s dilemma in the local paper, he leapt into action. Using a mailbox and cinderblocks donated by local businesses, the Marine Corps veteran who was wounded serving in Iraq built Vreeland a mailbox sturdy enough to stand the Pennsylvania snowstorms. “We’ve got to stick to each other, help each other out whenever we can,” Christman told The Morning Call.

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Car trouble

When disabled Air Force veteran Kimberly Klutinis needed her brakes fixed, she whether the car service center had military discounts, according to KXLY. While waiting for the quote, she chatted a bit with another customer named Rod. After hearing the shop still needed to order the right parts, Klutinis headed home. Little did she know that Rod would offer to pay the $200 for her new brakes after she left.

kayakJacob Lund/Shutterstock

Rocking the boat

Eighty-five-year-old Korean War veteran Jim Goetschius lived near Cape Cod, but he couldn’t afford a canoe to visit the lakes and ponds with his wife and dog. Hoping to check those boat rides off his bucket list, he visited a local police department known for helping veterans. Deputy Chief Steven Xiarhos posted Goetschius’ story on Facebook, and the police department’s followers jumped to help the veteran. People from Maine to Connecticut started offering canoes or the money to buy one. Goetschius ended up with a like-new one from Rob Scala, who lived about four hours away. He said helping a veteran was his way of giving back to someone who’d given so much for his country. “These guys are the ones who are going out and giving a big portion of their lives, some more than others,” Scala told Wicked Local Cape Cod. “What makes a vet serve his country, for all of his people? He doesn’t individually know all the lives he’s defending.” Read our 19 favorite kindness quotes.

puppyAnna Efimova/Shutterstock

Puppy love

When scammers took nearly $500 from a Vietnam veteran hoping to buy a puppy, he couldn’t afford a new dog anymore. Larry Palmer, a 70-year-old who lives alone in Kentwood, Michigan, “just wanted a little companion to take care of and be with while I’m going through what rest of life I got,” he told WOOD TV8. The story tugged strangers’ heartstrings, and about a dozen got in touch to help him get a dog. One woman paid for a teacup Yorkie named Precious, who now naps with the veteran by the TV, according to 7 News.

HOME HELPER kurhan/Shutterstock

Home rescue

When Kenneth Holtz needed work for mold and water damage in his mobile home, the disabled Vietnam veteran hired a construction company for renovations. He paid $17,000 for labor and materials, but the contractor disappeared halfway through the job—after gutting the interior and cutting the thermostat and AC off, according to KMOV. Holtz paid $2,200 for an electrician to fix the wiring, but the rework didn’t pass inspection, so St. Charles, Missouri, threatened to condemn the property. When city officials realized condemning the property would leave Holtz homeless, though, help poured in. Holtz crashed temporarily with a neighbor while contractors and businesses donated their help and materials to cover the repairs. Next up, try one of these 39 free acts of kindness.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.