The holiday season is a time to spend with families and friends. But for service members and veterans, the holidays can be a challenge. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 11 to 20 percent of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom suffer the effects of post-traumatic stress (PTS) over a year’s time. And the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that more than 39,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. So, how can you support our service members and veterans who have sacrificed their lives for our country? Review these ways to show your support for the men and women who have served our country.
Know the signs of PTS
The invisible wounds of war, like PTS, are sometimes easy to overlook, which means it’s important to know the symptoms and signs that someone is struggling. There are four types of PTS symptoms that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says can disrupt a person’s life and make daily activities difficult, including: reliving the traumatic event, avoiding situations that remind a person of the event, negative changes in beliefs and feelings, and feeling keyed up or jittery. When you know the signs of PTS, you can connect that person with the resources they need. The VA offers suggestions for apps and other low-tech ways to help manage holiday stress and additional resources that can provide assistance 24 hours a day.
Start a conversation and listen
Oftentimes, taking the time to listen to a veteran or service member is all that is needed. When military personnel return home, they may feel disconnected from civilian life. For veterans, they might think that their stories are going unheard or are unwanted. If you know someone who has served or is serving, reach out to him or her and ask about their experience. Then, just listen and show that you care. If you find that he or she needs urgent emotional support, connect him or her with the Veterans Crisis Line.
Support homeless veterans
When you’re in your car or walking around town you may have seen a homeless person with a sign saying he or she is a U.S. war veteran in need of help. While it’s difficult to know if the person’s claims are legitimate, it is possible to make sure that person receives a warm meal. The next time you see one of these individuals, take a few minutes out of your day and buy that person a meal from a nearby restaurant. When you give it to the individual, be sure to thank him or her for their service to our country. Additionally, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans suggests many different ways to get involved and support homeless veterans.
Volunteer your time or resources
When Task & Purpose asked 25 veterans and service members how people should thank them for their service, common responses were volunteering at the local VA hospital, lending a hand with a local veterans group, and donating to worthy veterans causes. The holiday season is the perfect time to find a place to plug yourself into a volunteer opportunity. Search online for local veterans groups or organizations that support active-duty service members and find a volunteer opportunity that works for you. For the men and women who gave of themselves for us, this is a small way to show that we care. There are also many organizations that support the military in different ways, and these organization need your monetary support. Remember: It’s important to research an organization before you give to make sure it’s legitimate. IFHF supports service members experiencing the effects of the invisible wounds of war: TBI and PTS. You can find out how to give to IFHF here.
This holiday season, while you’re busy shopping and planning parties with families and friends, please take a moment and remember our veterans and service members who might be struggling to find the happiness and joy this time of year. There are so many ways you can give back and support the men and women who have given so much for us. We’d love to see how you give back during the holiday season. Send us a message and tell us how you got involved!
Posted on November 27 2017 in Blog