If you want to support veterans, explore the organizations and resources available to you.
- Contact a National Guard or reserve unit in your area that has or may deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan to ask how you can be of service.
- Adopt a military unit or families within the unit through your church, service organization or social club. "Cook for them, provide transportation, organize social events and activities, and take up clothing, toy, school supply and food drives," Bill says. "For female service members, donate makeup, female products, clothes and, again, any item that their children could use or appreciate." With certain security clearance, you might even be able to babysit, offer childcare or after school activities.
- Offer fellowship, bible study and spiritual comfort to service members or their families through your church group.
- Donate time to your local veteran service organization. "We have many people donate their clothes and household items to our clothing room, and we are opening a food pantry and people are bringing us canned and dry goods for our veterans who live here and who are successfully transitioning to live in the community," Bill says. Volunteers at U.S. VETS also help the organization's administrative staff with filing, data input and office-related tasks.
- Say thank you. If your friend or family member has returned home, let that service member know you care and support him or her. "This simple contact goes miles in letting them know [you] care, and again it develops trust and avenues of communication," Bill says. "So often a service member and their family would be ashamed to let their friends, neighbors, community and even other family members know that they are struggling, so simple contact ... helps so much in taking shame out of the equation."
- Enroll in volunteer services at your local VA medical center. "They have wonderful opportunities for individuals who want to help and be involved," Bill says."