Honoring Our Veterans During the Pandemic
Each November it is customary to honor the veterans in our society who have selflessly served in the military to protect our nation and our freedom. The Denver Hospice estimates that about 25% of the patients we serve are veterans. For this reason we participate in We Honor Veterans, a joint program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Department of Veterans Affairs, to focus on meeting the needs of veterans as they approach the end of life.
But this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are obstacles to the customary rituals for recognizing and celebrating our veterans and their families. The need for social distancing and isolation of those most vulnerable to the virus interferes with the in-person ceremonies where veterans can be honored for their service. Here are some ideas for reaching out to veterans in your life to express your gratitude and support during this unusual time of separation:
Connect by phone or video chat
If you have a loved one, friend or neighbor who is a veteran, you can still connect with them virtually to send your love and gratitude. A veteran who is isolated at home or in a long-term care facility would appreciate a conversation where you offer your thanks and also show willingness to listen to any stories they would like to share.
Write thank you letters and cards
Cards and letters sent by mail become keepsakes that express your love and can be saved and cherished over time. It only takes a few minutes to write a personal note to a veteran, but it can have a big and lasting impact.
Deliver care packages
You can make special care packages for veterans whether they live at home, in a long-term care facility or even in a homeless shelter. Books or magazines, music, socks, slippers, a comfy blanket, small pillow, or personal care items are appropriate for most people. You can include non-perishable snacks if you know the dietary needs and restrictions for the person you are honoring.
Make signs and posters
Create a thank-you poster that can be hung on the wall or window of a veteran’s room so that they can see it every day. Decorate it with images of the flag, and sign it with personal messages of thanks. You can also find pre-printed posters for veterans at many stores and online sites.
Provide a device for virtual connections
Consider equipping a veteran in your life with a smartphone or tablet to enable better virtual conversations. Offer instructions for using the device, and make sure they are easy to follow. A smart device like Alexa or Echo can be used to make phone calls by voice command, which could be very helpful for a disabled veteran.
Recommend online resources
The VA has created a smartphone app called COVID Coach that provides trauma-sensitive support for veterans who are coping with stress in managing daily life during the pandemic. If the veteran in your life can navigate technology well, this app and other online resources, like the organizations listed below, may be beneficial.
Donate to an organization
There are many non-profit organizations supporting veterans and their families that could benefit from an offering of time or money. Here are a few of those groups: Hope for the Warriors, TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), Give an Hour, and Operation Gratitude, to name a few.
Difficult times like the pandemic we are experiencing can inspire our creativity and resilience as we cope with all the changes to daily life. Our veterans have already dedicated their lives for the wellbeing and safety of all of us during other difficult times in history. This year find a special way to give something back and honor the veterans in your personal life and community for all that they have sacrificed.