By KATHY A. MEGYERI
My husband, Les, served 3 years active duty in the U.S. Army as a military police officer and 27 years in the Reserves with the District of Columbia National Guard where he was called to active duty 22 times in the 60s during the riots.
He views his military service as an important part of his life so every year we visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the National World War II Memorial and the Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania where his name is listed among the graduates of the U.S. Army War College.
Along the way, we’ve met many Americans who ask how they can best thank those who have served. Following are some of the suggestions based on positive feedback from military veterans and their families:
1. For many veterans, taking an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials of the wars(s) in which they fought is the ultimate experience. However, those flights can’t happen without the support of Americans who donate funds and flight rewards points, or show up to cheer for the veterans as they arrive or depart at the local airport.
In Florida, veterans in this magazine’s coverage areas are flown from Ft. Myers, St. Petersburg, Naples and Lady Lake. By contacting Honor Flight Hubs (honorflight.org/regional-honor-flight-hubs), a schedule of arrivals and departures can be obtained.
The current priority for Honor Flights is given to WWII survivors and the terminally ill. The waiting list is currently at 38,054, and last year, 21,089 were flown to D.C.
2. Ever see a veteran in line at McDonald’s or pumping gas at a gas station? Thank them by going to the cashier and buying a drink, meal or by paying for a fill-up anonymously since some service members are uncomfortable with public displays of gratitude. It will be much appreciated, I promise.
3. Hire a veteran or their spouse. Visit militaryfriendly.com to see a current list of military-friendly employers and organizations. Also, more than 3 million who have served their country own their own businesses. Go to navoba.org to find out how to support them.
4. Check out psycharmor.org, the website of PsychArmor Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides critical resources to Americans so they can effectively engage with and better support military service members, veterans and their families. The institute offers classes and free webinars on how to find, hire, train and re-train veterans and military spouses.
5. On the Fisher House Foundation’s website, fisherhouse.org, you can make a donation to help build and maintain comfort homes for family members who stay free while a loved one is receiving treatment at a military or veterans’ hospital. You can also donate frequent flyer miles to the foundation’s Heroes Miles program to help transport family members to those bedsides.
6. Give your time and expertise to a veteran. All kinds of skills are appreciated from electricians to plumbers to home builders and computer tutors. Lawyers and accountants can help with VA compensation claims, upgrading discharges, bankruptcy, tax issues, etc.
7. If you donate money to your college or a local
charity, earmark the money for veterans’ scholarships and their support programs. Nonprofit organizations such as Four Block (fourblock.org) provide critical services to student veterans transitioning to the private
8. Volunteer to visit veterans in hospitals and support care giving families by offering respite care. Offer to drive veterans to appointments. Bequeath a gift to your local veterans’ association. My father left funds to buy a new van for a local American Legion.
9. On Veterans Day, visit a nearby nursing home with a small gift such as a floral bouquet or box of chocolates and ask to be referred to a veteran without regular visitors. Introduce yourself to the patient as a caring citizen who wants to thank them for their service, have a short introductory chat, and ask him or her to share a memory or two from their years of
10. If you live with a veteran, make him or her a
special red, white and blue pancake breakfast with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream. Add some patriotic-themed floral arrangement and décor, and most of all, make sure to tell them they are loved, not just for what they’ve done for you, but for what
they’ve done for freedom and our country
“We can’t all be heroes.
Some of us have to stand
on the curb and clap as they
walk by.” — Will Rogers