Best things I've learned spending time with veterans this year:
Anthony, Memorial Day 2012
Veterans are a very special group of people. Appreciate the ones who came home, always remember the ones who didn't.
They are not special because they are different or "a breed apart;" they are special because they are exactly the same as the rest of us and still joined the all volunteer military.
Saying you support veterans and actually supporting them through actions are two different things.
Making a difference doesn't have to involve events, fund raisers or big what-to-do's. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just spend time: Have a bbq, crack a beer, help build a fence, go see a movie. Just be a friend and let home feel like home.
Don't forget military families. Sacrifice doesn't just involve one person. Even the veterans who come home to us often pay a steep familial price.
All combat veterans pay some kind of price, be it the ultimate price or surviving physically or emotionally wounded. Every veteran deals with it in their own way.
In my opinion a veteran suicide is a combat death. The people who fight for us shouldn't have to pay for it for the rest of their lives.
If you know someone who is struggling to adapt to life at home, try reaching out to other veterans for help. Only other veterans really know what they are going through and sometimes they can help or know where to go for help. Try your local VA Hospital, VFW or national networks: 1-800-273-8255
Veterans can also use your help in congress. Contact your local representatives and voice your support for veteran benefits, improved medical care, expanded mental health care and other things such as VA benefits covering the training and placement of emotional support service dogs.
Visiting the VA is one of Liam and Leonidas and my favorite things to do. Many veterans truly benefit from their pets and service animals. Whenever the opportunity arises, voice your support for such programs and encourage other people to do the same. The human-animal bond is a powerful thing.
The veterans who gave their lives for us made that sacrifice so you wouldn't have to. The best way to honor it is to live your life, be happy, chase your dreams, love your friends and families and always remember why you are able to enjoy those things.