How to Thank a Veteran

Every year, I repost this with minor updates so we may remember. For those that don’t know what a Veteran is, they are a person who has served or is serving in the armed forces, and has direct exposure to acts of military conflict. What this means is not all those that serve or have served in the military are vets, although you can bet that most of those in active duty now are either veterans (Iraq/Afghanistan) or will likely soon be one. It’s always good to say thank you in person, that’s always appreciated by those that serve or have served. But there are more ways to say thank you to those that through their chosen profession are willingly putting their lives at risk so you may have the life you live today. It is great having a day named for your service, but true thanks is how you honor these men and women and by the actions you take. I’ve had a few humbling moments and great honors this past year with veterans and while they may seem to be people just like you, they are different. Part of that difference is what they’ve experienced, some great, and some awful. And they carry that around with them. For the hard parts, many vets won’t ask for help or seek help. Often times it’s not in their nature. They’re used to taking care of the rest of us and believe in words like duty and sacrifice. And they’ve done their duty and they’ve sacrificed. So today, yes, thank the vets that you see. Reach out to your veteran friends because they appreciate it. But most of all, try and remember them every day through your actions, rather than words for one day. My list is shorter this year, as I’m only listing items based on wonderful people I know that do these things and personal experience:

  1. Help those with PTSD

More and more service members are falling to the effects of PTSD. And few want to publicly talk about it and many have trouble explaining what they are going through. I had the honor of hearing Capt. Jason Haag speak at a fundraiser several months ago. He had contacted an organization K9s for Warriors and they got him a service dog named Alex. Capt. Haag literally credits Alex with saving his life. And now speaks on behalf of K9s for Warriors through his own experiences. Read more on Capt. Haag here and donate

  1. Help the Wounded Warriors and have fun

Give directly to Wounded Warrior. Or if you want to have fun, get in shape AND support wounded warrior, sign up for a Tough Mudder or two.

  1. Give an Hour

If you are a mental health professional (therapist, counselor, etc), you can join give an hour, which is exactly that – you give an hour of counseling for those that need it, coming back from Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. If you aren’t a mental health professional, you can donate directly to the organization

  1. Reach out and make their day

Call them, write them, stop by and visit. Many vets, at times feel isolated, or isolate themselves. Let them know you are there. Let them know you care. And not just for today. Let them know you are a friend for life and that no matter what they’ve done or not done, what they are experiencing, or where they are in their life, that you are their friend and you care. Do it through your actions and  your words, and you too will have a friend for life.

The funny thing about Veterans…you never know. You may be talking to a Medal of Honor, a Cross, Silver Star or Bronze Star Recipient. And I guarantee the following: For every award, there is likely ten other veterans that deserved the same award…for all the Bravado in the military, that is an area these men and women don’t brag about. They are proud, that’s all. And for each of those ten, there are hundreds more that could have won those awards, but just never were in a situation that warranted them. These men and women knowingly enter into a profession that is meant to put them in harms way and they are sitting next to you and I every day, whether you know they are a vet or not.

My favorite personal story I repeat every year (from a Silver Star recipient) – He was a Korean War Veteran. His award was for Valor when at night, a large North Korean force over ran his unit, who was asleep. He got up and instead of retreating charged straight into the Koreans, rallying his unit and basically prevented them from being slaughtered. The US Troops that were running away, heard him and turned around and fought back.

His version was that every night, they would all place their sleeping bags in the position where they could quickly get out of their bag and be facing the right direction to get out and run. He said he was so tired that night, that he put it in the wrong direction and when everyone got up, he ran in the wrong direction, right into the arms of the Koreans, screaming and yelling.

I loved that he a. wasn’t bragging and b. could admit error.  Why he still got the award – once he realized his mistake, he kept going and kept fighting.



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