We have been to war for 16 years. Sixteen years in when all too quickly those who are not directly affiliated with the military have forgotten that we are still at war. Yet within these 16 years as a military community, we have seen countless military-affiliated organizations pop up to support in one way or another the veterans of the Post-9/11 era. Many of the programs, both federal and privately sponsored, are specified solely to the service members and/or their defendants for those of the Post-9/11 era.
This leaves a large number of veterans, many now whom are also senior citizens, without the tangible support of their fellow Americans. Many of these senior citizen veterans fought and came home from the Vietnam War; and, unlike the veterans of today, were treated in a disgraceful way. Thank God, the majority of our culture has changed to support our veterans that return home now, even when in conflict of war itself, but by excluding our senior citizen veterans we may be continuing to neglect to give the support that society sidestepped so many years ago.
Frankly, senior citizens are often also the loneliest and most requiring of resources, and we have neglected this segment of our own. In honor of “Senior Citizen Day” (Aug. 21), below are five ways you can support the senior citizen veteran in your community, or organizations that you can pass on to the senior citizen veterans that you know.
1. Visit with senior citizen veterans. Call your local nursing home to see if there are any resident veterans that do not get visitors often. Let them talk, and just listen. These veterans are people that likely would like someone to sit with. Appropriately share and always listen; you will be rewarded with a friendship. While neither of us lives in a nursing home, my dear neighbor and friend have formed a friendship in this way with Ernie, who is a veteran. We have bonded over shared stories. He is a man I greatly admire and am so glad our paths have crossed. I am confident that if you chose this suggestion you will find the same.
2. American Legions, VFWs, DAVs and the like have been proclaiming their low enrollment numbers for years, which threatens the longevity of their organizations and thereby programming that supports veterans and their dependents of all eras. By supporting these groups, you are also helping to support the veterans that frequent the resource and establishment. You can reach out to your local post to see how they may need support through volunteerism, donation or special events.
3. Reach out to the local VA representative (or again local Veteran Service Organizations) to offer to help senior citizen members with lawn work or needed house repairs; these organizations are more likely to be in contact with the senior veterans that have the need for help from others. You could even see about collaborating with Lowes or Home Depot, which are veteran friendly, for supplies in building ramps on houses of veterans in wheelchairs, etc.
4. Work with local organizations like TeamG8. Team G8 shows their support to veterans of all eras by participating in car shows and rallies. A number of their veterans are also members whom use the organization therapeutically.
5. The Honor Flight Network is an organization that provides a free trip to aging and terminally ill veterans get to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at the memorials of their respective service area. This often brings closure to the veteran. The Honor Flight Network seeks volunteers to act as guardians, an escort during the trip, call veterans and inform them of the trip date(s), and back-end support such as clerical, PR, etc.
The ways in which we can honor and support our senior citizen veteran population are only limited by your creativity and time. Do you have the time? You are a military spouse. I know you have the creativity!
“Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years.” -Ausonius
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