This series was inspired by the 2012 National Conference on Volunteering and Service. This section references a speech given by Gen. George W. CAsey, a retired United States Army General, at that conference.
To view the introduction to the series, click here.
Upon returning home, many veterans have a network of support online and close friendships with fellow veterans across the country, but lack a network at home. They look for people to connect with in their communities, and often don’t find them.
“Support isn’t enough,” Gen. George W. Casey, a retired United States Army General, said in his speech. “Veterans need to be connected with a community instead of being under its microscope.” This is where Elks can help.
As a community organization, we can reach out to military members and their families, recently returned veterans, and veterans in need. Let them know they are welcome in the Elks community. You don’t need to be overly forward. In fact, many younger veterans are put off by overt displays of recognition. As a consequence, one organization said its policy has become to “sneak services to veterans.” This is one of the reasons USO centers are so popular. Veterans and military members can stop by and simply take what they need, whether that is information on counseling, employment, or simply a few snacks and a comfortable place to rest for a short while. The USO’s strategy is to create a safe space and offer support as needed, and it is very successful.
Elks Lodges can also become a safe place for veterans. Many younger veterans mention that they are open to traditional support and fraternal organizations, if those organizations are adaptable. When I spoke to one 29 year old woman who’d just recently returned from serving 10 years in the military, she found the veterans support organization in her hometown unwelcoming to her, her friends and their ideas. Eventually, she left that organization and found another that was open to her and her friends as members.
Oregon City, Ore., Lodge No. 1189 used a pilot program Beacon Grant to partner with a local college’s Veterans Club. Together, they helped raise more than $17,500 for a fund designed to help veterans in need return to college. Click here to read the Elks in Action feature about this event.
(At left, Oregon State Senator Martha Shrader speaks at the event.)
Lake Sammamish, Wash., Lodge No. 1843 used a Gratitude Grant to partner with a local snowmobile club. The group joined forces to give wounded warriors at a nearby base an adventurous day out on the drifts. “Thank you for all of your support, “ writes Sergeant Major Howard S. Briel, who took part in the event. “ The event was a big hit and served as a great opportunity to show appreciation for soldiers serving our great country.” Click here to read the Elks in Action feature about this event.
(At left, the soldiers pose with their choice of vehicle for the day.)
Do you know a veteran soon to attend or currently attending college? Check out the Affordable College Foundation's guide to college affordability for veterans for information about scholarships, government assistance and more.
Has your Lodge considered partnering with the USO? Visit the USO website to see if there is an office near you.
The Wounded Warrior Project welcomes partners and volunteers for all of its programs. Visit the WWP webpage to learn more.