May 22, 2024

Supporting Veterans and Families Through Philanthropy

Author National Philanthropic Trust

Always the last Monday in May in the United States, Memorial Day is a national holiday dedicated to the memory of all service members who have died in the line of duty. For some, remembrance of the fallen can be a comfort, but for others it can be a painful, confusing and anxiety-inducing ordeal. While the holiday is often celebrated with barbeques, retail discounts and parades scored by high school marching bands, the full scope of the day’s meaning can easily fall to the wayside.

On Memorial Day, we remember and honor those passed. However, we must also honor the living. Every soldier, sailor, marine and airman who gave their life in service to their country has left behind loved ones—be they family, friends or fellow service members.

To honor the spirit of Memorial Day through philanthropy, one could:

  • Support monument-movements led by those who have lost loved ones in the service.
  • Support the upkeep of current monuments or dedications honoring the memory of the fallen.

Philanthropy can also bridge the gap between government funding and unmet needs for military families. Keeping the loved ones left behind in mind, consider:

  • Contributing to scholarship funds aimed at helping the children of military families pay for college.
  • Supporting career development networks that help widowed military spouses enter or reenter the workforce.
  • Supporting—either through traditional funding or with other resources—organizations that provide community connection and healing for families.
  • Recognizing that due to complex guidelines that differ throughout military branches, not all families who lose beloved service members are able to receive Gold Star Family status, so support for families can extend beyond the boundaries of the Gold Star.

Many veterans and active-duty service members have expressed difficulty processing emotions rooted in remembering colleagues they have lost. It’s not uncommon for veterans and active-duty service members to experience mental health issues like PTSD. For some, Memorial Day can trigger these issues, heightening complex and painful feelings surrounding their experiences, which are felt, to some degree, year-round. On this day, it’s a good rule of thumb to ask a veteran or active-duty service member, “How are you feeling today?” instead of automatically wishing them a happy Memorial Day.

Being mindful of the difficulties vets and active-duty service members may face on Memorial Day is a great first step, and there are a plethora of ways for philanthropists to help this community access valuable resources:

  • Support increased ease of access to mental health services.
  • Find career-building and networking organizations aimed at helping veterans transition to the civilian workforce.
  • Donate to organizations providing veterans and military family members with opportunities for furthering their education or other skillsets.
  • Support organizations providing community and social support for veterans and their families.

Each Memorial Day, remember the families, friends and fellow service members and their needs. Philanthropy has an invaluable part to play in honoring the memory of those who have passed, and ensuring hopeful futures for both the loved ones they were fighting for and those who fought alongside them.

About the Author

Kathryn Lena Kochanowicz is a Content Specialist at National Philanthropic Trust. She graduated from Gettysburg College with a degree in English Literature & Creative Writing, and currently resides in Hatboro, PA.