Saying “thank you for your service” is a nice, heartfelt gesture. It represents how America feels about veterans. The gesture, while appreciated, isn’t enough. There are four ways that you can effectively express your gratitude to a veteran.
First, be willing to listen.
Take time to hear their stories and struggles. This may take a while and many veterans do not feel comfortable opening up to just anyone. By striking up a conversation and getting to know them in a meaningful way helps bridge the wide cultural gap between civilians and those who have served. Here are some ideas about what to talk about.
Second, help bear their burden.
Some things a veteran will tell you might be unpleasant or hard to hear. Try to listen without judgment. They might not realize how badly they needed to share their struggles and you might be the only person willing to listen.
Third, do not stereotype.
Veterans are commonly stereotyped. Do not treat them like victims. Veterans are not broken, they have just been through a lot. The modern discussion on PTSD and mental health has helped to clarify and enlighten many on the true nature of Trauma and Combat. Remember, not every veteran has PTSD and not every veteran will be violent.
Fourth, get involved.
There are many veteran programs available to volunteer for. Taylor’s Valley Baptist Church is launching a new veteran’s ministry called The Valley. The Valley is peer based discipleship to help male veterans and first responders live a life of victory. Figure out what you do best, or have to offer, and reach-out. You could change a life.
If you are a veteran or first responder, or know a veteran that would benefit from growing in a life of victory, email us at
Military@tvbc.net. We would love to talk with you.
Matthew Statler SFC, US Army (Ret.)