Helping Veterans of a New Generation

image source

Growing up, I confess that Memorial Day didn’t have much of an impact on me. I didn’t personally know any veterans and didn’t fully understand the sacrifices made by those in the armed services.

Then came September 11th. I was a sophomore in college, and suddenly we were at war. That day, as I sat with my friends watching those towers fall, I knew everything would change. We all thought the draft would be reinstated, and recognized that no matter what, people we knew would enlist.

And enlist they did. Good friends joined the Army special forces, the Marines, and the Coast Guard. An anxiety filled my heart that I hadn’t felt before – part of me was always thinking of them, wondering if they were okay. When I heard of a service person injured or killed in the line of duty, I didn’t quite breathe until I realized that I didn’t recognize the name. In 2007, a childhood friend was killed by a roadside bomb while helping to rebuild Afghanistan, and my heart ached (and still does) for his family.

Now, when Memorial Day arrives each year, I remember people who were my own age. It is no longer an abstract holiday for me; it’s not only for older men who fought in wars that happened before I was born. It’s about men and women who have their whole lives ahead of them, and yet have already faced hardships that I can only imagine.

Soldier in stream
image source

Most of my friends are back in the United States now, thankfully – one after three tours in Iraq. And even though not every veteran has physical scars from their service, many suffer emotionally and have a hard time adjusting back into civilian life.

Taking a moment to remember…and offer support

This Memorial Day, as we take time to honor those we’ve lost in the line of duty, let’s also think of those who have returned to civilian life and need our support. Here are three organizations (recommended by a veteran pal of mine – thanks Ben!) that are truly making a difference and providing valuable services:

American Corporate Partners
ACP’s mentor program pairs veterans with executives at top companies like AT&T, Pepsico, Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson. Veterans receive guidance and advice on all things career-related, and can take advantage of the vast networking opportunities of their highly successful mentors.

United War Veterans Council
Among other outreach, the UWVC puts on the famous Veterans Day Parade in New York City each year. More than just a parade, events like this create an overlapping community between military life and civilian life. For veterans who feel isolated by their military service and have a difficult time adjusting to civilian life, UWVC helps ease the transition.Donate

Wounded Warrior Project
The Wounded Warrior Project gives direct aid to veterans who were injured in the line of duty. They help wounded veterans get access to medical care (which is more difficult than it should be), secure jobs and develop careers, and readjust to civilian life.

The hardships faced by military personnel don’t end the moment they return to the United States. For many veterans, especially those who have been injured or traumatized, the hardest days are still before them.

Soldiers honoring a fallen comrade
image source

This Memorial Day, as you think about those we have lost, please also consider those who continue to pay a hefty price for their service; they truly have sacrificed for our country. The organizations I mentioned above aren’t the only non-profits that could benefit from your generosity. If you feel so moved, check out the JustGive Guide for more.

What veteran’s organizations do you support? Do you know a veteran who has been helped by non-profit services? We’d love to hear about it – leave us a comment below or share your story on our Facebook page!

– Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager

Our veterans deserve our thanks and support

According to MilitaryReporter.Net, the United States is home to more than 22 million veterans. This Memorial Day show your support, not only for our military currently fighting overseas and those that gave their lives, but also for our veterans at home as well.

Their changing needs

Nearly one in all 10 veterans has served in our Armed Forces since September 2001, and these veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have different needs than veterans of the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Most are men and women in their 20s and 30s who are just starting families and trying to find employment in a tough economy.

Many veteran assistance organizations are struggling to survive when the services they offer aren’t meeting the needs or being used by vets today. Thankfully, some organizations are finding new ways to reach out and assist today’s veterans. Retired U.S. Air Force Major, Dorian de Wind, writes about how the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization is responding to the issue in his Huffington Post article:

“VFW posts are often times viewed as smoke-filled ‘watering holes’ where a bunch of old guys sit around drinking beer, playing bingo and telling war stories.” Members of the VFW Post 4443 in Texas want to be “a safe haven for returning veterans…a place where they can enjoy the quiet peace and tranquility needed for them to find themselves…a place where they can bring their families and enjoy the swimming pool, quiet game rooms, picnic and BBQ areas.”

NPR News addressed the same topic with Robert Siegel on All Things Considered. They talked about a relatively new organization located in Milwaukee, Dryhootch, whose motto is “helping the veteran and their family who survived the war, survive the peace.” It started as a coffee house where veterans can re-connect and find the support they need without feeling forced to commit to a VA program or using alcohol or other substances to fill a void. Dryhootch offers peer-to-peer support to veterans of all eras. They also have an online community and resources—offering services in other ways that may make new veterans feel more comfortable receiving help, advice, or counseling.

Organizations helping veterans

There are many great organizations working to provide veterans with the support they need. A few I’d like to mention:

  • The Wounded Warrior Project offers numerous resources for veterans—advocacy, counseling, family support, peer mentoring, and work programs. Their Combat Stress Recovery Program addresses the mental health needs of recently-returned soldiers, providing them with the tools to recognize what they are going through and helping them understand how to deal with it.
  • Soldier Ride gives returned soldiers a way to “reclaim their confidence and strength through the exhilaration of cycling.” The focus of the ride is to give wounded soldiers a way to empower themselves and improve their physical and mental health.
  • The Warriors to Work program helps veterans figure out how to use their military skills to enter the civilian workforce. They also educate employers on the benefits of hiring veterans as well as fight common misconceptions about veterans.

This Memorial Day, why not make it a point to help a veteran’s organization continue to offer necessary services by starting a monthly recurring donation to one of these organizations? We enjoy the freedom they have fought to give us—and they deserve our thanks and support. I think we owe them that.

Do you have a special way to honor and support those who have served? Share it with us on Facebook and let’s get others on board too!

Marketing Assistant, Julia Hughes