As we begin Military Appreciation Month, you may think “What can I do to show my appreciation?” Typically the first thing that comes to mind is to jump on social media and offer a heartfelt post about appreciating our troops. Another go-to is to identify a veteran and say “thank you for your service.” While there is nothing inherently wrong with offering kind words, the gesture can feel a little empty and even a little awkward.
There are a variety of reasons that thanking military personnel for their service doesn’t often land well. While many veterans don’t mind words of appreciation, for some vets, they feel they “haven’t earned it because they haven’t seen combat” or they feel uncomfortable being “thanked” for doing their job. It has become so expected in our society to thank a veteran for their service, it is almost as though the words have lost meaning and seem more reactionary than heartfelt.
Though I don’t believe we should ever stop thanking veterans for their service, I have gathered a list of creative ways to show your heartfelt appreciation:
- Get to know a veteran. Take time to truly learn their story. Many veterans who identify being thanked for their service as “awkward” attribute the feeling to the fact that the person telling them knows little about what they actually went through in the service. Learn about not only their military experience but all aspects of their life as well.
- Get involved. There are hundreds of local military focused non-profits in communities nationwide that would love your support. There are many ways to offer your support: volunteer time on the weekend, donate money, or sponsor an event at your work.
- Send a care package! If sending the actual package isn’t an option, working with an organization to host a collection drive, or donating money toward care packages are also options!
- Learn about the issues affecting the broader military population and find out what you can do to help. Research political candidates and vote for those who support vets and their families. Write letters or emails to your senators and representatives urging support of issues impacting veterans. Vote!
- Support veteran or mil-spouse owned small-businesses.
- If you own a business: hire a veterans and their spouses, offer discounts, give-away “freebies” during Military Appreciation Month or on Veterans Day. Military spouses are often unemployed or underemployed and struggle to build meaningful long-term careers. This is a group of individuals with incredibly varied and highly developed skillsets often looking for work and are greatly limited by their duty stations.
- If you have a skill or trade, offer your services pro-bono.
- Buy a service-member or veteran a ticket to a local sporting event, concert, movie, or attraction using services like Vet Tix.
While this list is in no way exhaustive, it allows for more creative ways to show your appreciation – many of which come with little cost attached, and offer an opportunity to make a real impact the lives of veterans and their families.