Visit sick, injured and elderly veterans: many veterans in hospitals, nursing or retirement homes struggle with loneliness and depression, and would welcome someone coming by for a visit. While you can ask the staff beforehand if personal care items or home-baked goods are permitted, the greatest gifts are your time, companionship ( from you and your pet ) and willingness to listen.
Hire a veteran: veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan face higher rates of unemployment than veterans and civilians in general, with the greatest percentage of unemployed among 18-25 year-old veterans. Even if you aren’t in a position to hire, you can recommend a veteran for a job at your place of work, help a newly returned service member write a resume, sponsor a veteran at a professional networking event, or help a veteran acquire skills to land a new or better job.
Help Veterans with PTSD: New research finds that “man’s best friend” could be lifesavers for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.Researchers are accumulating evidence that bonding with dogs has biological effects, such as elevated levels of the hormone oxytocin. “Oxytocin improves trust, the ability to interpret facial expressions, the overcoming of paranoia and other pro-social effects—the opposite of PTSD symptoms,” says Meg Daley Olmert of Baltimore, who works for a program called Warrior Canine Connection.About 300 vets have participated in these programs, and some graduates who Yount worried “wouldn’t make it” report impressive strides. Congress has commissioned a study, underway in Florida, to assess the effectiveness of canine-caretaking on PTSD.
Train Dogs to become Service Dogs: The relationship between a service dog and a veteran is akin to a team walking a tightrope. To succeed, they must focus on each other, intently. Distract one, and both can stumble. When they are in sync, the intricate teamwork going on can appear effortless to the outside world.
People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been helped tremendously by service dogs. The dogs are trained to respond to five specific demands from their partner:
- Block: the dog will stand in front of their partner forming a barrier and space between other people.
- Behind: the dog will position itself behind its partner.
- Lights: the dog will enter a room ahead of their partner and turn on the lights so their partner does not have to enter a darkened room.
- Sweep: the dog will enter a house or room and sweep it for people or intruders, alerting their partner by barking.
- Bring: the dog will retrieve an item such as car keys and bring it to their partner.
Adopt a military family or veteran: the spouses, children and parents of military members serve as well; they sacrifice the comfort and companionship of their loved ones during deployments, change of duty stations and other realities of military life. In addition, 40% of veterans are 65 or older, including many who live alone or far from their loved ones. Offer to help with minor home repairs, local errands or simply ask if they want to talk. Check in from time to time since they may be hesitant to ask for help. Consider inviting a local military family or veteran to your holiday dinners or weekend cookouts, knowing that they may be without a mother, father, spouse or child.
Support veterans causes: the scope, variety and urgency of veterans’ needs is vast and growing, especially as more men and women return from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Find a veterans service organization that inspires you and give as often and generously as you can. If you’re unable to contribute financially, consider volunteering or spreading the word about their good work.
Say “thank you.” As you go about your daily life, thank veterans where ever you may see them. It may be a veteran in uniform, or one wearing a commemorative military cap or jacket. Step forward, extend your hand and say, “Thank you for your service.”