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12 Simple but Powerful Ways You Can Support Vets

Veterans deserve our gratitude and support every day of the year.

Phalanx of U.S. Flags honoring the fallenBrian Logan Photography/Shutterstock

Supporting our veterans

America devotes two national holidays annually to the recognition of military service, yet American vets deserve our gratitude and support 365 days a year. Here are 12 ways to lend your support—many won’t cost a penny!

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Help with a service dog

Once they return from duty, service dogs can be a great help to Vets with disabilities or PTSD. Having a properly trained dog can help them both physically and emotionally. It takes about two years to train a service dog for a veteran and you have to be a certified trainer to help them qualify, but you can donate your time and/or money to the pups. Some organizations need “weekend puppy raisers” to help the dogs learn how to socialize. To volunteer or donate, check out Patriot Paws and Puppy Jake, two organizations that help provide vets with service dogs.

green lightbulbSean Locke Photography/Shutterstock

Swap out one lightbulb with a green one

The Greenlight A Vet project is a simple way to honor all of the sacrifices vets have made for our country. Show your appreciation to them by swapping out a normal outside lightbulb for a green one.

disabled american veteransMark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock

Offer your time

Even if you can’t spare much money, volunteering is the gift that gives back. It can be incredibly fulfilling to extend your gratitude to those who deserve it most, and it can fill your heart at the same time. Consider volunteering for organizations that assist veterans such as Disabled American Veterans (a nonprofit that offers vets free transportation to VA medical facilities), or Canine Companions for Independence (a nonprofit organization that provides therapy dogs to veterans). Here are more veteran-related organizations worthy of your time and energy.

Concept image of buying. Shopping trolley in a Tesco Hypermarket with blurry background of groceries on the rack. Focused only at the trolley.Mohd Hafizan bin Ilias/Shutterstock

Shop for good

Why not pay it forward with the way you shop? Several businesses are finding ways to support veterans by offering post-deployment job opportunities, employment for military spouses, and remaining committed to hiring and retaining veteran employees. Businesses such as Walmart, Home Depot, Hilton Hotels, and StateFarm Insurance, are among those that made Business Insider‘s list of the 100 most military-friendly companies in America. The next time you find yourself in need of a hotel room, a credit card, or anything else, check the list to see if the business you’ll be using made the cut—it’s one easy way to make your dollar count even more. These are the 10 nicest ways people have said “thank you” to veterans.

soldierLaura Gangi Pond/Shutterstock

Support worthy causes

If donating financially is more your speed, there is no shortage of organizations that can use your support. Worthy organizations include Hope for the Warriors (founded by military wives for post–9/11 service members bearing psychological and physical wounds), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (supporting the 2.4 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan for their lifetime after deployment), The Gary Sinise Foundation (led by celebrity Gary Sinise with a mission to create unique and effective programs that serve veterans and their families in a variety of ways), and Wounded Warriors Family Support (with the mission of supporting the family of those injured or killed in combat situations). Here’s a more extensive list of charities that support veterans. These are 30 places that offer vets free meals on Veterans Day.

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Pay a visit

Visiting a wounded veteran in the hospital is a meaningful way to express gratitude for their service on your behalf. Not every veteran has family who are able to visit, and days spent recovering without others to talk to or visit with can feel like years. Consider visiting a veteran as a family to teach your children about the true sacrifices of those who serve, as well as to provide a history lesson. This is one small act of kindness that will last beyond the moments spent at the bedside of someone who has served.

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Send a care package

During deployment, a package filled with useful and familiar items can feel like a hug from home for service members. Several organizations such as Operation Gratitude, Hero Box, and Operation Shoebox provide civilians with care package kits to send items requested by deployed military members. Items such as sunscreen, lip balm, and knitted or crocheted scarves and hats, frequent the wish-lists of service members. Many, if not all of the organizations that provide the kits to be sent to military members accept them year-round, with the exception of seasonal items such Halloween candy. Sending a care package to an active service member is one way to include the entire family in an act of kindness—children of all ages can help pick out requested items as well as include a personal note or drawing to express their appreciation. Don’t miss these other simple ways you can be a hero to veterans.

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Raise grateful kids

One way to ensure that support of our military members extends long into the future is to raise the next generation with a sense of appreciation, understanding, and gratitude for what those serving our country have sacrificed for America’s freedom. There are many ways to introduce children of all ages to what military service entails, some of which include reading children’s books (H is for Honor by Devin Scillian is a great one for young children), visiting military-themed museums, and including them when visiting veterans or preparing letters and care packages. It is never too early to introduce the idea of gratitude to children for the service of others on their behalf—and make sure to exemplify appreciation yourself, as they will imitate what they witness. Find out how a game of golf changed one veteran’s life.

Soldier and civilian shaking hands on blurred backgroundAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Offer your talents

The world is a better place when we use our gifts to help others in need. Sometimes the best way to serve a veteran is by using your passion and talents for a greater purpose. Why not use your career or vocation to assist veterans with tasks like completing taxes or providing much-needed home improvements? Whether you’re a counselor or a financial planner, a cab driver or a lawyer, there is a veteran that could use your help. To find specific areas of need, visit milserve.org. Looking to learn more about Vets? This is why Veterans Day doesn’t have an apostrophe.

The gardener cutting grass by lawn mowerKimtaro/Shutterstock

Do the little things

The simplest acts of kindness often mean the most. If you find yourself living near a veteran, why not offer to ease the burden of yard work or running errands? Mowing a veteran’s lawn every week, or spending some time pulling stubborn weeds means so much more than just helping with the landscaping—it’s a tried and true way to physically show your appreciation for the sacrifice their service required. If lawn care or grocery shopping isn’t your thing, why not bake cookies or invite them over for a meal? Going outside of your comfort zone to show appreciation often reaps rewards you never saw coming. Check out these other 50 random acts of kindness that don’t cost a cent.

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Help them record their legacy

For veterans with no family close by or at all, recording the story of their service can provide a sense of peace and comfort that cannot be underestimated. The Veterans History Project collects audio and video stories of veterans spanning every war from WWI to present. War-time letters, diaries, and journals of veterans are also accepted, as well as artwork and photographs. This is an incredible way to encourage children to learn more about the life of service members (by including them in the video or audio interview process), and also works well as a service project for Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or as a bar or bat mitzvah project.

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Say ‘thank you’

Perhaps the easiest way to extend your gratitude to our men and women in the military past and present, is to say “thank you”—two magical words that literally lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and strengthen relationships. We can express our gratitude a multitude of ways, and yet a simple verbal acknowledgment of the great sacrifice veterans have made for this country should not be overlooked. A simple thank-you, a gesture of buying a meal or a cup of coffee, can mean more to those we owe our freedom to than we can understand in the moment. Learn 45 things America’s troops wish you knew.

Jen Babakhan
Jen Babakhan is an author and credentialed educator living in California. She writes regularly about advice and culture for Reader's Digest. She is also the author of Detoured: The Messy, Grace-Filled Journey From Working Professional to Stay-at-Home Mom (Harvest House Publishers, 2019). She earned her BA in Communication Studies from California State University, Stanislaus. You can follow her on Instagram @JenBabakhan , Twitter @JenBabakhan, and Facebook @JenBabakhanauthor.