Today, I read a Newsweek article about how almost half of our veterans feel uncomfortable with the convention of people saying, "Thank you for your service." Some cited that they simply felt awkward with the platitude and didn't know what to say back and others would prefer that we civilians try to connect on a more personal level. For instance, we could ask them more about their time in the military. This is all good to think about and made me wonder about the veterans that we are failing. How do struggling veterans feel when we say thanks, but then don't act to help them out of systems that don't give them what they need?
I'm not an expert on veteran affairs, but I do know that 1.5 million veterans live in households that completely rely on SNAP benefits (formerly known as Food Stamps) to keep themselves and their families fed.
Additionally, the US Housing & Urban Development reported that about 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Why are so many veterans homeless? In addition to factors that affect all Americans in poverty (shortage of affordable housing and livable income), veterans are a group that disproportionately have to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. Because many have faced dangers to secure our freedoms, they are now at risk for these problems...sometimes without access to health care or family support others might have.
So, how do we go beyond posting memes and saying "Thank you for your service" on this Veterans' Day? Here are some suggestions from me. I'd love to hear more ideas from you in the comment section! I especially invite comments from those who have served so that the rest of us can learn.
- Ask a veteran about where and how they served. Then, listen!
- Urge your members of Congress to fully support SNAP benefits and protect it from the Administration's repeated attempts to cut back
- Donate to Feed Our Vets, food pantries providing regular, free food to veterans & their families
- Urge Congress to adopt a Renters Tax Credit to keep veterans and other Americans in their homes. Here's a link to help you call Congress. (It's the last action on the page about Housing)
- Donate to the Wounded Warrior Project. Among it's valuable programs, it has services for mental wellness, physical wellness, and career and VA benefits counseling.