Nov 10, 2022 - Health

Axios Finish Line: Helping heroes

Illustration of a heart cut out of military camouflage

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

This article originally appeared in Axios Finish Line, our nightly newsletter on life, leadership and wellness. Sign up here.

Here's a sobering stat: Since 9/11, four times as many U.S. service members have died by suicide as have died in combat.

Why it matters: We don't have a strong enough safety net for the men and women who risk their lives to keep us safe.

We asked veterans, academics and community organizers how we can best help those who are with us — and help remember those who are gone:

1. Donate. There are a slew of organizations that help veterans in big and small ways. 

  • Here are a few: Puppies Behind Bars links vets with PTSD with dogs trained by prisoners, helping three causes at once. Building Homes for Heroes constructs houses for vets. The Wounded Warrior Project offers services from mental health resources to job coaching.

2. Volunteer. You can give rides to vets with disabilities via Disabled American Veterans, or write letters via Operation Gratitude.

3. Hire. If you're an employer, go to one of the many recruiters who specialize in connecting veterans to jobs.

  • There's a business case for hiring veterans who bring specific skills, such as leadership ability and a strong sense of mission, according to research from Syracuse's Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

4. Help families. There are hundreds of thousands of families dealing with the loss of a loved one because of war. You can donate to many organizations, such as Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), that offer resources for those families.

5. Embrace conversation. Many of us don't know what to say to a veteran or to a family who has lost someone, but that silence is even more isolating for those who are hurting, says Audri Beugelsdijk, a vice president at TAPS and a Navy veteran and Navy widow herself.

  • "The first thing is not to avoid talking," she says. "Don't try to relate, but let people know you're there for them even if it's uncomfortable."

6. Say thank you.

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