5 Ways Veterans Can Serve Other Veterans
People who dedicate their lives to military service can feel displaced when returning to civilian life and often search for ways to continue helping others. Veterans can find satisfaction in volunteering with programs designed to meet the needs of other veterans. Their own life experiences can prove to be an invaluable resource to younger servicemembers who may be dealing with similar issues. Veterans engaging in mentorship programs usually enjoy the extended military camaraderie they receive by volunteering.
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
This nonprofit organization advocates for veteran causes and works to foster connections between veterans and their communities. Local VFW posts partner with community organizations to raise money for veteran financial assistance, scholarships and other programs that inspire patriotism in younger generations. Regular meetings allow members to get together with other veterans and mentor one another.
VA Hospital Volunteers
Since 1946, the Veterans Administration's Voluntary Service (VAVS) program has assisted hundreds of thousands of veterans at VA medical centers worldwide. When filling out an online application to volunteer at a VA medical facility, applicants can request positions that reflect their own personal skills and interests. These options include social work, sports and recreation, arts and music, chapel services, companionship, writing and more. Veterans who enjoy driving can apply for the Volunteer Transportation Network to drive rural vets to and from necessary medical appointments.
The American Legion
Chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919, The American Legion is a patriotic veterans organization dedicated to mutual helpfulness and giving back to the community. Veteran volunteers in the Operation Comfort Warriors project provide newly returning veterans with comfort items that greatly improve their daily life but are deemed "nonessential" by the government. Examples include fitness equipment to regain strength, loose-fitting clothing for burn victims, and iPods for veterans suffering from combat-induced tinnitus.
Disabled American Vets (DAV)
The DAV is a veterans-helping-veterans organization whose mission is "empowering veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity." Veterans can join and volunteer to drive other vets to medical appointments, or provide companionship to veterans at hospitals and nursing homes. The DAV Local Veterans Assistance Program needs volunteers to do yard work, painting and other errands for veterans needing assistance.
The USO provides ample opportunities for veterans to assist other veterans and those currently serving in the military. Operating more than 180 USO Centers worldwide, the organization provides comfortable spaces for soldiers to rest, relax and connect with loved ones via internet or phone. The USO accepts veteran and civilian volunteers who agree to abide by the Standards of Conduct outlined on its website. Veteran volunteers are especially welcome at airport locations where they can provide encouragement and comfort to soldiers transferring to and from war zones.
Veterans who volunteer with the USO can also help other servicemembers by providing care packages, staffing USO baby showers or assisting with caregivers seminars. Volunteers are also needed on mobile USO units that bring rest and relaxation to troops that are stationed far away from standing USO centers.