In our last post, we shared the story of Rivers of Recovery and the people who’ve embraced our mission to serve veterans.
In response, readers asked us how they can help veterans in their communities.
Here are our suggestions.
One of the simplest things you can do for veterans is listen, explained Derek McGinnis, an Iraqi combat vet and Rivers of Recovery participant. “Don’t do anything special,” he said. “We’re just like anyone else in the community. We don’t want to be different. We want to be accepted.”
During our trips, veterans often find it easier to talk to other veterans, even if their military service was very different. Civilians sometimes can feel uncomfortable talking about military experiences, particularly difficult or traumatic ones. Listening, Derek explained, is the best way to start a conversation. “When a vet wants to share, they’ll share.”
2. Preserve Their Stories
Not long ago, we listened to a World War II vet’s story about being shot down over western Europe in a B-17 and hiking on foot through enemy territory, relying on the generosity of strangers to feed and hide him. It was a tale worthy of Hollywood, and it could have been lost forever when he passed away recently.
The Library of Congress wants to prevent that from happening with their Veterans History Project. Anyone can get involved and help a veteran record their stories. Visit the Veterans History Project website for information.
3. Volunteer Your Time
Here at Rivers of Recovery, we’re lucky to have a group of dedicated volunteers whose time and energy ensures the success of our trips. These volunteers include community members and other veterans.
Dan Laffin is a former participant and current board member who was inspired to start a Rivers of Recovery chapter in the northeastern United States. “If I can get through to one guy, it’s worth it,” Dan said. “If you can get one guy out from his computer or his basement or out of a bottle or pills, it’s always worth it.”
4. Tell Others about Rivers of Recovery
Word of mouth is still one of the strongest ways to share the Rivers of Recovery story. Our donors and volunteers reach out to more people who can do the same, creating a network of supporters who are making a difference in the lives of veterans every day.
Our donors are the backbone of our program, and their support enables us to offer trips at no cost to participants. Our efforts to continually expand our program to include more of our nation’s military heroes is a direct result of their generosity. Visit our Donor page to learn more.
Do you have other ideas? We want to hear them. Please add them in the comment section.