January 21, 2022
Thank You for Your Service | How to Connect With Our Military Veterans
As of 2021, there are about nineteen million American Veterans. That’s nearly 6% of the US population. Unfortunately, the rest of us often struggle with finding ways to connect with the brave men and women who have put their lives on the line for us. Whether it’s because we don’t know what to say, we’re afraid of how our actions will be perceived, or we don’t understand the lives they’ve led, let’s learn how to create meaningful interactions and connections with our Veterans.
Here are a few ways you can connect with Veterans on a deeper level.
Connect Through Conversation
Like you and me, Veterans enjoy connecting with others through good conversation. Now, think of the conversations you value most: they’re the ones in which you’re talking about your experiences, things you’re passionate about, or subjects you’re well-versed on, right? That’s why talking with Veterans about their military service is important. However, while there are military-related memories that Veterans are fond of and enjoy talking about, there are also topics to avoid.
Here are some good conversation starters:
- “Do you have any funny stories about your time in the service?”
- “Tell me about the most interesting person you met while you were serving.”
- “What does your service mean to you?”
- “What was your favorite place you traveled to during your time in the service?”
- “What branch did you serve in? Why did you choose that one?”
- “Who or what was your inspiration to join?”
- “What was your job in the military?”
- “What was the most rewarding part of your time served?”
Unless they bring them up first, a few subjects to refrain from talking about are combat-related topics, PTSD or other service-related injuries, and questions like, “What was the worst thing you ever saw?”
Connect Through Gratitude
Expressing your gratitude to a Veteran can help form a sincere connection. It can be as simple as saying “thank you” and truly meaning it. Instead of using the overused and seemingly insincere phrase, “Thank you for serving,” try adding a little extra sentiment. Say something like:
- “Thank you for all that you do/have done.”
- “Thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made for our country and people.”
- “Thank you for putting your own life on hold to protect us.”
Aaron Fischer, a combat Army Veteran who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, adds, “I can also tell when someone’s being genuine when they make and maintain eye contact with me.”
Connect Through Donations
Donating is always a great way to show support and connect with others. Keep reading for some different ways you can donate to our Veterans.
Make a Monetary Donation
You can make a lasting impact by supporting organizations and causes that give back to our heroes. Here are some nonprofit Veteran organizations with great causes:
- Gary Sinise Foundation supports our defenders by creating programs that entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities.
- Fisher House Foundation builds comfort homes where Veteran families can stay for free while a loved one is in the hospital.
- Patriot PAWS’ mission is to train and provide high-quality service dogs at no cost to disabled Veterans and others with mobile disabilities.
- Guitars 4 Vets aims to provide relief to struggling Veterans through the healing power of music and community.
Donate Your Time
Nothing shows appreciation quite like giving your own time. Plus, through volunteering, you’ll likely get to see and feel the impact you’re making. Seek out your local VA (Veterans Affairs) or VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) facility and ask if they need any extra help. Or, perform a quick search online to find organizations holding Veteran-focused events near you.
When it comes to our Veterans who are currently serving, letters and gifts of gratitude are incredibly valued. Army Veteran Brian Passehl remembers, “It was my first time away from home for Christmas, so I was feeling pretty down. Our First Sergeant told us random care packages came in and that the newest arrivals got to pick theirs first. Upon seeing the packages, I immediately said, ‘I pick the box from Wisco!’ It had cookies, a T-Shirt with a big, red ‘W’ on it, and a Wisconsin hat. It also had socks and a card wishing the recipient a ‘Merry Christmas from Wisconsin.’ I’ll always remember this particular care package; I can still picture the contents and letter now.”
If you’d like to send a letter, card, or care package to military personnel, you can do so through uso.org, amillionthanks.org, supportourtroops.org, or operationgratitude.com. Or, if you have the time, buy some goodies and put together a care package yourself; look below for some tips on creating your own.
What to Put in a Care Package for a Soldier
- Necessities like hygiene products, baby wipes, sunscreen, and lip balm.
- Entertainment items like books, magazines, games, or crosswords.
- Letters and cards, especially children’s notes and drawings.
- Stationery, envelopes, and pens so they can write letters to their loved ones.
- Snacks including non-melting candy, beef jerky, cookies, nuts, and single-serving drink mixes.
- Home-baked goodies like cake-in-a-jar. Visit fiftytwocakes.com/how-to-bake-jar-cake for an easy recipe.
- If you’re not a baker yourself, buy cookies and other sweets through cheryls.com, and they’ll ship them to an Army/Fleet PO address for free!
Ultimately, we must remember that Veterans are people too. The key is to be sincere and genuine in your interactions, and your efforts will likely be recognized and greatly appreciated.
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