Editor's Note: After the parade ends, vets still need help

We like to do veteran homecomings big around here.

Whether they’re home for good or have to go back soon, our community makes them feel appreciated. We do motorcades, parties, and people cheering from the sidewalk. It’s awesome.

As I plowed through a pile of news releases related to Veterans Day, one from Volunteers of America stood out to me. It began banally enough, talking about a panel discussion among Very Important People about the issues veterans face. But then this line caught my eye: “...while applauding those who are returning from war is a significant gesture, it does little to help them with the many day-to-day challenges they face.”

Well, ouch.

You know what they say is the worst time for families after a death? It hits about a year after the loss. The flow of casseroles and condolences has stopped, the world goes on with daily life, and the mourners begin to feel isolated in their grief.

I imagine the news release writer was trying to say something similar: after the flags have been folded and the cheers have died down, the veteran is still there, trying to reintegrate into a daily life very different from the one they have been living, often struggling with some form of physical or psychological disability from their service.

The news release also pointed out the suicide rate among veterans is 22 per day, on average.

Many veterans issues have to be handled at the government level, and some can only be handled by the veterans themselves. But here’s the good news – your involvement doesn’t have to stop at cheering at the parade. You can help make life better for vets and their families.

Volunteers of America also has ways you can help on its site,, or you can contact your local American Legion or VFW and ask them to suggest ways you can help veterans in your community.

Some suggestions include:

• Write a letter of gratitude to a veteran.

• Donate items like magazines, DVDs and books to veterans organizations. Many veterans have limited incomes that prevent them from buying little luxuries.

• Offer to help families of veterans with lawn or home maintenance. Families are often stretched thin during deployments and homes can be difficult to keep up.

• Provide transportation for local veterans to work or to receive medical care.

• Donate gift cards for grocery stores and restaurants or help to prepare meals for veteran families.

• Provide foster care for a pet while a deployed soldier or wounded veteran is away from home.

• Don’t be afraid to knock on their door and introduce yourself. Let them know that you’re available if they, or their families, need help. Just knowing that someone cares and is there in a time of need goes a long way.

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