May is Military Appreciation Month and a time to recognize and remember the sacrifices and challenges that our active-duty service members, veterans and their families have made. Some of those challenges include health-related issues, transitioning to civilian employment, accessing and understanding earned VA benefits, relocation, building and rebuilding relationships and adjusting to civilian life.
To help address some of those challenges and sacrifices, we participate in a variety of community events, including military spouses’ appreciation, stand downs, salute to service activities at sporting events or entertainment performances, veteran job and resource fairs, honor flights and remembrance ceremonies.
There are also a variety of service projects such as card writing, placing flags at headstones at national cemeteries and sending care packages to our troops so that they know they are not forgotten and appreciated.
Both of my late grandfathers served in the U.S. Army, and I realize the numerous sacrifices they made along with my late grandmothers. As I age, I have made a more conscious effort to support our military families through service.
Writing note cards to a veteran goes a long way, especially for isolated veterans living in long-term care facilities. Saving toiletries from trips and sending care packages for active-duty troops is a welcome luxury. Spending time at a national cemetery cleaning gravestones or laying wreaths is peaceful and honors the memory of our fallen heroes. Supporting our veterans at a local stand down is a hand up and not a handout.
AARP offers many veterans, active duty and military families a variety of free resources (aarp.org/veterans), including military caregiving guides, fraud awareness and prevention information, veteran and military spouses job center and assistance to accessing earned VA benefits through a health benefits navigator.
Many states also offer free workshops for veterans and their families, and AARP participates in a variety of community service projects.
Visit aarp.org/NearYou to find local events.
As Memorial Day approaches, let us take a moment to participate in a meaningful activity in our community to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to our nation for our independence and freedom.
JR Fujita is a senior state and community engagement specialist and is the state lead for AARP California’s Veterans, Military and their Families initiative based in Sacramento, Calif.