The word “veteran” usually conjures up the standard definition of someone who has fought in a war or someone who is a former member of the armed forces, or less often a veteran refers to someone with a lot of experience in a particular job or activity. To really understand the depth of the word, however, one must either wear veteran shoes or walk alongside those wearing them.
This month provides ample opportunity to recognize (and get to know) the depth of veteran and military family experiences. November marks National Caregiver Month, Military Family Month, and Veterans Day (on the 11th). With the exception of remote assignments and deployments to war zones, military kids tend to go wherever the orders send their mom or dad (or both). Appreciation for sacrifice and service is a matter of the heart, not a matter of age. In the words of Elizabeth Dole, “our nation has a clear responsibility to better support America’s military and veteran caregivers” – to include the littlest (child) caregivers.
“This is the longest period of war in U.S. history,” said Steve Schwab, executive director of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, which works to raise awareness and support for military caregivers (per the Miami Herald). Researchers are working hard at efforts to mitigate combat’s fall-out. Some focus directly on the veterans, others dual-focus on veterans and their families, and still others focus on the kids serving alongside. All are to be counted among our nation’s warriors.
Equipping families with positive coping strategies is as important as equipping soldiers for the job, and life itself during and after service. Families’ needs are being taken to heart with interactive retreats and camp experiences as well as transition resources.
Project Sanctuary uses high adventure activities such as rafting to help families discover ways to communicate, and horseback riding to show individuals how to handle a possibly stressful situation and manage emotions. Hope for the Warriors provides service members, veterans, and military families with support programs focused on transition, health and wellness, peer engagement, and connections to community resources. The Transitioning Veteran gives a plethora of information on their Wiki Resources page, from Post 9/11 GI Bill and employment links to medical benefits and homeless veteran help.
While teaching at a veteran art symposium, I became familiar with another treasured resource, the Veterans Writing Project. They believe that every veteran has a story. “Writing is therapeutic. Returning warriors have known for centuries the healing power of narrative. [The Veterans Writing Project] gives veterans the skills they need to capture their stories and do so in an environment of mutual trust and respect.” The no-cost writing seminars and workshops are for veterans, service members, and their adult family members.
National Caregiver Month, Military Family Month, and Veterans Day on November 11th each hold multiple opportunity to honor the selfless individuals who willingly have protected our freedom for decades. The word “veteran” defines someone who has fought in a war or someone who is a former member of the armed forces — in either case veterans have a lot of experience in particular jobs and activities. Find a way to say thank you, and perhaps, have a seat and listen to a little of their story.
Military.com has compiled a 2016 list of Veterans Day discounts for goods, services, events, and restaurants here.
Just 100 people donating $50 builds a tiny home for vets experiencing homelessness; this Wisconsin veterans outreach is making it happen.