Veterans Affairs – Volunteering and Donations

For someone looking to help a veteran, they need look no further than their local Veteran’s Administration Voluntary Services Offices. To find one, scan the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs website which lists all the locations. Every state has at least one, including Puerto Rico, and New York has the most.

The most obvious way to lend assistance is to donate money. The website makes this process easy and secure, offering the options to pay with debit or credit, or even direct withdrawal from a bank account. Donations can be directed to a specific facility in the selected state, and the generous donors also have the option to specifically choose which fund they what their money to be used for. The options include: Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish chaplains; homeless veterans; adult day care; hospice care; trauma and rehab; women veterans; Vietnam veterans; national wheelchair games and even national art festivals. And there are many more options to choose from. Of course if the donor would simply like the administration to allocate the funds toward whatever they deem most important, that area of the donation form may be left blank. Donors can rest assured that 100% of their donation will be used for the fund they choose.

If people are inspired to donate time and work rather than simply money there are plenty of opportunities to do so with the VA. Volunteer drivers and transport coordinators assist veterans who need transportation to medical appointments or job interviews. One volunteer driver may traverse up to 50,000 miles a year. Drives can cross state lines and even mountain ranges through all types of weather. Many of these drivers are veterans themselves, wanting to help out their fellow soldiers. Drivers must pass training and physical exams and are responsible for filling out daily logs.

One time events give eager volunteers the chance to help without a long term commitment. Welcome home ceremonies are scheduled when active military member are due home. They, along with their families, are provided with pertinent information about health care and other benefits the VA departments provide. It is an integral way to help ease the transition into life after active duty.

Students in health care fields are also encouraged to volunteer through the Student Volunteer Program. Areas of focus can include speech pathology, nursing, laboratory medicine, nutrition and food service, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and social work. This program not only helps the veterans, but gives the student volunteers real life experience and a tangible advantage on job applications.

A company-sponsored volunteer program can also be created for employers looking to unite their employees and help their company give back to the community. The VA Voluntary Service will customize a program for a company’s specific times schedule and ability.

The National Salute to Veteran Patients Program occurs annually around Valentine’s Day. VA Medical Centers around the country host celebratory events ranging from special ward visits, photo ops, recreational games and school essay contests. Some larger cities even plan musical concerts that are free for veterans and their families. These events need a full range of volunteers in all sorts of categories, whether volunteers want to be very involved or just help a little.

There is no minimum age to volunteer. Not all volunteer positions are working with ill patients, but every volunteer does need to undergo a health screening to ensure veteran safety and well being. Volunteer assignments will dictate if a background check in needed but most of the time a simple fingerprinting will suffice.

For any questions, a local VA Voluntary Service is the best resource. They appreciate all the help willing to be brought their way.

Summary of Important Annual Gatherings for Appreciation of US Soldiers

As I relaxed on my porch, drinking coffee, it crossed my mind how privileged I am. My blessings are uncountable. Conversely, one of my greatest blessings is my freedom. I owe this to our dedicated soldiers.

Compare our coziness and comfort this season to dirty, dusty, dingy and dry conditions of the Middle East. While we mingle and laugh with our friends and families at parties, they are constantly looking over their shoulders counting on their sister or brother soldier to watch their back.

May is National Military Appreciation month. Congress chose this month to ensure the nation was given a chance to publicly express their gratitude for the successes and sacrifices made by our soldiers.  Within the month of May there are quite a few military related national observances:

Armed Forces Day

Observed: Celebrated yearly on the 3rd Saturday in the month of May.

This is a day set aside to pay tribute to both women and men who served the United States armed forces. It was initially designed to supersede the days celebrating each service, but those days are still observed. Many events across the United States take place on this day to honor American soldiers who served their country in times of war and peace. Those who are honored on this day include individuals who serve the Navy, Army, Coast Guard, and Air Force. Activities and events may include:

• Themed motorcycle rides.
• Different educational activities that educate children about the armed forces.
• Large parades.
• Multi-service military displays in areas open to the public.

Memorial Day

Observed: Celebrated on the last Monday in the month of May.

This is the most renowned holiday out of the May military-themed ceremonies. It started after the civil war to pay tribute to Americans who died while serving in the country’s Armed Forces. Many Americans observe this day by participating in parades, holding family gatherings and visiting memorials or cemeteries. Unofficially, at least, it marks the beginning of summer.

Military Spouse Day

Observed: Traditionally set for the Friday just before Mother’s Day.

This is an important day set aside to recognize the sacrifices, contributions, and support of the spouses of the Armed Forces. American’s military spouses are without a doubt the strength of the families who encourage our troops during deployment, reset, mission and reintegration. They are the quiet heroes who are vital to the strength of our nation and who equally serve our country.

Admittedly, spending years scared for the life of a loved one takes a toll on an individual’s emotional and psychological well-being, so military spouses will undeniably be grateful for your support. How you decide to mark this day is up to you, just find a way to show these people the compassion and respect they deserve.

Conclusion

I would like to say “Thank you” to military members present, past and future. We appreciate all that you do to protect our country.

How We Can Show Soldiers Our Support

Holidays away from loved ones are never easy, especially if a loved one is stationed overseas with his or her military unit. In recent years, tens of thousands of our soldiers have been deployed to other parts of the world, missing Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas presents. Yet, while they work in a job that offers little opportunity for holidays and vacations, we all benefit from their service as we are able to remain safe stateside and enjoy the gifts our loved ones in the military give us daily – security and peace of mind.

As a nation that is at war, the demands of each soldiers lengthy and ongoing deployment can have an adverse impact on the financial stability their families. There’s no doubt that many of these families suffer extensive income loss and become strained by loans and debts while their love ones are deployed overseas. Our soldiers are devoted to protecting the freedoms we may ignore.  However you and I can make a decision at this time to help the families of these heroes and injured soldiers alike by making a contribution to a variety of support organizations for the families of our soldiers.

Your contribution will not only help support the family members of those that are currently serving in combat, it will also support those people who’ve lost loved ones or those that are injured. Any such gift is a recognition of the knowledge and appreciation for the sacrifices these heroes make each day, doing so for our benefit.

Supporting those soldiers who are currently injured is to acknowledge that they deserve the most effective care and support available at their moment of need. Because the road to recovery or rehabilitation from sustained injuries can be an expensive and lengthy one and the injuries are often very severe and life altering, much financial support is needed.

The costs of hospitalization and treatment for these soldiers is often very high, and expenses can add up very quickly. Plus families of injured soldiers will likely lose income because they have to take time off work in order to visit and take care of their injured family members. This can be very stressful for military families having a partner, brother, father, sister, or daughter serving in combat. Family budgets are stretched to the near breaking point, and if which were not enough knowing that at any time they might never see this hero again.

Contributions made by people like you and me are critical.  Without them we’d be unable to pay the treatment towards saving the lives of those individuals. The need for physical therapy, counseling, wheelchairs, learning devices and specialized equipment will continue to  grow. In some instances for all those soldiers that experience extensive injuries a need for modified homes and cars are needed to support the injury.

Making financial contributions is important. However, it may be even more important to show support in other ways. If sending giving money is not an option, a show of personal support can have a huge impact. Anything from you or your children will be treasured by a soldier, like a care package. Below are some ideas for things you can put into these care packages.

Nothing warms a soldier’s heart more, of course, than to receive a gift from home. Whether it’s a letter or a small gift, just the simple act of jotting a note that says “I love you” brings a piece of family to an otherwise lonely place. Unfortunately, not everybody overseas is as fortunate to get such things from home.

Just a few items one might want to consider giving include:

Hard candies and gum – Satisfy a soldier’s sweet tooth with a bag of peppermints or sour fruit jawbreakers. Chewing gum is not always easily available overseas, and such items won’t take up much room in a package. Avoid sending chocolates or anything else that may melt en route.

Drink mixes – Most fruit-punch and lemonade mixes are available in single serving envelopes. Send a box for a soldier’s water bottle, to make a refreshing treat.

Eye drops, lip balm, travel soaps – Especially if a soldier is stationed in a desert region, days and nights can be uncomfortable. Dry heat and sand irritate the eyes and chap the skin, so such items would be greatly appreciated.

Books – Occasionally, there is downtime, yet little to do. Mass market paperbacks – romance and mysteries, thrillers and fiction – are especially prized. If you are interested in just sending books overseas, you can arrange to ship through most booksellers.

Phone cards – Small, inexpensive, and very practical. One card gives the gift of conversation with family for a soldier. Especially on holidays, this is a very thoughtful gift that can bring a soldier closer to home.

 

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