3 Key Steps to Understanding and Supporting Veterans and Active Duty Military


By Kelli Brewer

Many civilians want to thank a veteran or soldier for the sacrifices they’ve made, but many of these civilians are not sure how to truly show their support. Sure, offering thanks is one step you can take, but compassionate, meaningful support takes so much more. So, if you are ready to honor the sacrifices of the military, veterans and their families, here’s where to start. 

Understand The Challenges Faced By Veterans and Their Families 

The first step in showing compassion to these communities is to understand them. For veterans, that means acknowledging the issues that can put undue pressure on their lives. One of the most pressing issues facing veterans is a broken healthcare system.

If you know a senior veteran who is having difficulties accessing VA health services, you can help out by talking to them about possible Medicare benefits. Eligible senior veterans can look into whether supplemental Medicare plans, such as Medigap Plan F and Plan G, may help offset medical costs or even help out with Medicare Part B deductible.

Having complete Medicare coverage can help senior veterans access care outside of the VA and help them get the most out of their health coverage. For younger veterans, transitioning into careers can be difficult, which is important for potential employers and colleagues to understand. By taking the time to research these issues, as well as other challenges faced by veterans and families, you can be better prepared to support them. 

Know the Difference Between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day 

Have you ever wished your friends and family a “Happy Memorial Day” on social media? You probably did so with the best of intentions, and you may have even used the same phrase with veterans and their families.

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What you should know, however, is that a day that has turned into the unofficial kick-off to summer is actually filled with more meaning for these communities, especially Gold Star families. These families have lost loved ones in a variety of ways, and Memorial Day is a reminder of these sacrifices. Whether a service member died in combat or by some other tragedy, this holiday is meant to honor all of those ultimate sacrifices and should be treated with respect and thoughtfulness.

It’s also important to recognize that Memorial Day and Veterans Day are different, so if you want to thank a veteran, do so on the latter, since it is meant to commemorate all who have served in the armed forces.

Show Compassion When Interacting With Veterans and Service Personnel 

Talking to veterans and active duty personnel about their service is a great way to connect with these communities. Knowing how to talk about that service is critical to maintaining the level of compassion and respect needed to keep those connections meaningful. Some of the things well-meaning civilians say can stir up some difficult emotions for those who have served in the armed forces.

Definitely avoid asking veterans detailed questions about their combat experience, and also avoid statements that stereotype these men and women. For example, it’s true that PTSD rates can be quite high among veterans, but that does not mean that every person who has served in the military has PTSD.

This is a serious mental health issue that impacts many former service personnel, but you shouldn’t assume that the person you are talking to suffers from this condition. Of course, being aware of PTSD triggers, like fireworks, can be more compassionate towards affected veterans. So, make an effort to understand triggers and challenges without being unintentionally offensive or obtuse towards military members. 

The simple fact is that there are numerous ways to give back to the men and women who have served this country, as well as their families. True understanding and compassion are good starting points, but taking an active role in the lives of veterans, service members and their families can help turn your compassion into meaningful action.

Photo Credit: Pexels 


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