How to keep helping veterans after Veterans Day.

The time of year has arrived when communities come together to honor our bravest men and women, who have defended our freedom around the world.

Veterans Day is a time when we celebrate by hosting parades, ceremonies, and barbecues while reflecting on the service of these individuals.

But when the day is over, we’ll all go home and tomorrow, the same challenges many of us faced before the holiday will still be there.

If you’d like to be an ally to our veterans the other 364 days a year, there are some ways you can help that are much easier than you think, and yet make a tremendous difference in our lives.

Here are three easy ways to be an ally to our veterans regardless of what day is on the calendar.

Just Listen: I mean, really listen to the veterans in your life when it seems like they’re not doing well. You don’t have to say much, just take a breath and take in what we’re telling you. We’re a proud bunch but even we need someone to confide in. Many times, it will be something small and we’re just looking for the same camaraderie that we shared in the military. Other times it may be something a little more serious and we might gently have to be guided towards some additional help. But either way, you will have made an important difference.

Support us when we’re struggling: The most painful headlines I’ll read are “community opposes veterans housing” or “some neighbors worry about mental health of local veterans”. Unfortunately, homelessness and suicide rates are higher among veterans. But there is a corrosive mentality among some communities that our struggling friends can’t be trusted among them. Almost like we’re a liability that can go off and cause damage at any moment. We must be careful with blanket assumptions like this one. Instead of instantly judging those of us who are struggling, we must explore solutions and set aside stereotypes that define us when we’re down.

Talk to your elected officials about us: The great thing about discussing veterans issues with our lawmakers is that you’ll likely be able to find some common ground with them regardless of where each of you are on the political spectrum. But it still makes a tremendous difference in the process. Too often council and committee meetings involving veterans issues will play out in front of an empty chambers. If you’re looking to make a true difference in your community, helping out veterans during the most important part of the legislative process is a great way to make that happen.

Please enjoy this Veterans Day, and remember that while the celebrations may disappear until next year, the work remains and you can make a real difference no matter what time of year it is.

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