Our veterans have made the ultimate sacrifice of laying their lives on the line to protect us, our families and the freedoms we enjoy. When they come back home from the wars they have fought on our behalf, they are too often treated badly or not with the respect they deserve. This needs to change and with this in mind here are some things we do to make them feel more appreciated.
Make sure they have the basics covered
The first thing to do with any veteran is to make sure that they have a place to live, are eating regularly and have access to quality healthcare. Many people assume that the government provides an unbreakable safety net, but this is simply not the case. Too many veterans are homeless, go to sleep hungry or cannot get through the myriad of paperwork to access the healthcare they need. Fortunately there are people like Houston’s Meridith Iler, who chairs Helping a Hero, a non-profit that builds homes for severely wounded veterans. Her efforts and others with Helping a Hero fill a void that the government simply does not address. We all need to involve ourselves with groups like these to ensure veterans have the minimum requirements to be healthy, fed and housed.
Don’t ask them to forget what they just went through
These warriors have gone through traumatic experiences that take a large toll on the strongest individual. They have likely seen close friends killed and severely injured and there is a good chance they may have been injured in some way as well. Any doctor will tell you that recovering from this circumstance takes sometimes years. So let them deal with their experiences at their own pace and give them room to work through and reflect on all of it as often as they need. This requires your patience but it is very important for them.
Be a good listener
Chances are the veteran may not have had the chance or the right person to fully tell the stories of what he has gone through and how it makes him or her feel. If this person is confiding in you, it may be the first time the person is confiding in anyone. So be prepared to listen and give the person some space to talk. Expect that it will not all come out in one conversation and in fact may take many months for it all to come out, but the veteran getting it out is really important is his or her moving past what has happened and getting back into normal life. So be prepared to listen. You should pay close attention for any conversations that go toward the veteran talking about injuring him or herself, or anyone else, or losing the will to go on, because this means you should contact a professional to talk with the vet. Also if the conversations become too dark for you and you feel uncomfortable about listening to them, contact a professional on your own and ask for advice about how to get the vet talking to a professional. Be a good listener and you will save someone’s life.