“Look,” my wife says, jerking her head awkwardly while she tries to remain inconspicuous. Over her shoulder, I see two men in fatigues step into the back of the line, patiently waiting their turn for coffee.
“I want to do something for them. Can we buy them coffee?” she asks. I admire how my wife really sees people. I don’t know these men, but I do know that they have sacrificed in the name of their country, my country, me.
We don’t often realize it, but 1 in 5 soldiers return home with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Two thirds of their marriages end in divorce and their rate of suicide is nearly twice the national average.
For Veterans Day, I want to learn to love our soldiers better. What can we do that will have meaning as we seek to honor and serve the brave men and women that have served us?
Bill Boyle serves with Cru Military and is a veteran of the Vietnam War. He opened my eyes to a new perspective with these thoughts.
Bill explained that after risking their lives and suffering unimaginable things, many soldiers came home to criticism, and even those that were paraded feel forgotten afterward. Bill said he has seen men who have been home for decades break down and cry when he offered a heartfelt “welcome home.” Sometimes the simplest things are the most meaningful.
One of the worst things we can say, though, is “I understand what you’re going through.” It can feel awkward knowing what to say to combat veterans, but this document on the do’s and don’ts can help.
How do we help those we have a chance to get to know? A co-worker of mine put it this way:
My next-door neighbor is in his late 20s and lost both his legs during service to our country. He is not spiritually interested and not at all friendly. I want to honor him this Veteran's Day, but I don't want to come across condescending.
Bill explained that knowing when and what to say is such an individual thing that we’ve got to pray and trust in the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, he said that it’s always best to show love and concern, respect for who they are and a desire to understand. As non-veterans, we can say, "I can't possibly know what you're going through, but I want to be there for you."
Some other suggestions Bill mentioned are:
- Pray and help them voice their prayer requests using this prayer tool
- Attend a military salute and invite your veteran friend
- Visit lonely patients at a VA hospital near you just to talk
- Give an “attaboy” (Certificate of appreciation) or a greeting card
- Organize your church to take a special Veterans Day Offering
- Beyond the holiday, resource a ministry for veterans at your church
Thank you for your service
To those of you who have served in the military, we owe you a debt we will never fully realize.
We thank you and we love you and we want to bless you in any way we can. May the Lord bless you as He has blessed us through you.