Aging Veterans: Helping the Greatest Generation and Beyond
Throughout the year there are special days marked to commemorate and honor those that have served and are currently serving in the Military. It is important to come together as a grateful nation to not only recognize the extraordinary sacrifice a soldier makes but to also establish a commitment to teach future generations of the value his and her service produces in our daily lives. When they are discharged, the veteran returns to his or her regular life but should not be forgotten; aging veterans should be cared for throughout their lives.
Many of us are connected to a veteran through family or friendship and realize their unique experiences. A veteran not only faces the everyday challenges that are common to all of us but also copes with hurdles associated with military service.
A shift in the aging veteran population has been noted over the past few years. A recent study by the National Council for Aging Care stated that currently 38% of veterans are over the age of 65. Similar to the civilian population, this number will increase in the years ahead as the veteran baby boomers reach retirement. Some veterans will move into nursing homes and senior care facilities as they age and visiting them there can provide joy in their day, others may be able to age at home with the help of VA benefits.
It is at this time that every opportunity must be taken advantage of by those of us that are motivated to help this exceptional group. The following list provides ways to support and honor our aging veteran population.
There are many volunteer opportunities available at your local VA, Veteran’s Home, American Legion, and VFW. The talents needed are wide-ranging: simple tasks, friendly visits, yardwork, technology instruction, musical lessons and performances, construction projects, administration projects, and driving to appointments are among the list. Check on the internet for local veteran site listings to find the steps to volunteer. Once you take the first step to get involved you will discover many benefits for yourself as well as those you help.
The DAV also provides a list online that connects volunteers to local veterans requesting help. You can discover the opportunities available in your state here.
Donations to veteran organizations and initiatives help in a big way. As mentioned previously, the aging veteran population is increasing and, subsequently, the cost of assisting this population will increase. Supporting dependable and trustworthy organizations that serve veterans can start with the organizations listed above and can be researched online.
The DAV provides a list of ways to give that extends beyond your area VA hospital to help aging veterans. Also, your local American Legion and VFW chapters host many events throughout the year that create opportunities to support and get to know aging veterans living nearby.
Another excellent organization and great opportunity to support older veterans is the Honor Flight Network. Its mission began over 17 years ago “to transport America’s Veterans to Washington, DC to visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifices of themselves and their friends.” A donation will help to sponsor a flight and there are volunteer opportunities available as well.
While considering which opportunity best fits your talent and ability, keep in mind the sacrifice of the military family. A veteran’s spouse, child, parent, and sibling often play a vital role in the life of an American soldier. There are also many veteran family-centered organizations available to support.
A valuable way to support our aging veteran population is to ensure that our state and federal legislatures have the highest priority in caring for all those that have served. History has demonstrated that, along with veteran organizations like the DAV, VFW and American Legion, the civilian population has been effective voices for quality veteran care and benefits by holding law makers and administrators responsible. Current initiatives can be found on the DAV site as well as on the national VFW site.
There is no better example of courage, comradery, selflessness, and loyalty in our country’s history than that of the American soldier. It is important to teach future generations about the Greatest Generation and other bands of soldiers. Local veteran museums exist throughout the country and provide a great opportunity to support the story of the American soldier as well as enrich your own knowledge of our country’s military history.
As we approach the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, there will be many programs highlighting the heroic endeavors of this historic event. Encourage the younger people in your life to listen and take note of these stories.
Say Thank You
Will Rogers said “We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.” Showing up for a veteran’s parade, buying lunch for the veteran seated next to you, and simply saying thank you as you meet a veteran are all ways to express your gratitude.
Enlisting a group of friends and children to write letters to aging veterans located in senior homes or the area VA hospital is another great way to say thank you and bring a smile to a veteran.
Another way to say thank you to a veteran you know is to make a list of the many veteran discounts that are available. Start with some research on the internet and create a useful list that matches services and products that will most likely be used.
Helping our aging veteran population depends on our commitment to be faithful to our pledge to honor and support them. Special holidays provide us with the opportunity to place an emphasis on the actions listed in this article. However, making an effort throughout the year is the best way to help those that rarely, if ever, ask for special assistance or gratitude.