Yesterday was Veterans Day here in the United States and in the past decade, the country has known nothing but war. As we start winding down the war in Iraq and slowly in Afghanistan, there are thousands of veterans from those wars that will be returning home. Many of whom will have various needs both at home and in the workplace. As we look to say “thank you” to the veterans of not only the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but also other members of our military, both present and past, just how can we express our means of saying “thanks” with more meaning? Well the Internet has definitely helped the country assist our troops, wounded or not.
Understanding our veterans’ sacrifice
In honor of the holiday, digital publication Mashable published an article on eight ways people can thank the troops online. Social media has helped get us more connected with the rest of the world and allow us to share stories both personal and from strangers that can motivate people to action. One particular instance is sharing stories of our veterans in action — and that’s exactly what the Veterans History Project is all about. Their goal is to help curate, preserve, and share the personal accounts of our American veterans so that others may learn from them and understand what sacrifices they made so that we have our freedom.
Other services and tributes that are emerging include one from the search engine Google, which was set up by people related to Google employees that have served or are currently members of the military. As part of this website, Google has created a service for military personnel and their dependents that they can pass along information. For those active and retired, Google will allow you to record your military story and offer you helpful tools as they return from war and re-acclimate themselves to normal life. Just how difficult is it for veterans to readjust? Well recent employment figures have shown that the unemployment rate for veterans who have left the armed forces post-9/11 is 12.1% — more than three percentage points higher than non-vets. That’s why Google’s site, along with others, are helping to get placement for our veterans by helping them get set up professionally, whether that means creating their own business, generating a resume, tracking your investments, or other community support. And if it’s not professional services, you can also use Google’s service to reconnect with your loved ones as well as fellow veterans. Basically it’s going to be your lifeline to helping make sure you’re always in touch with those who you need to connect with.
Of course, the general public can send their well-wishes to the troops both at home and abroad through the media, like how CNN is doing with their iReport platform. According to Mashable, this year, the media company leveraged Facebook by allowing photos and videos uploaded to their platform and tagged with “CNN iReport” and those items will be shared on the Facebook page as well, making it accessible to over 500 million people.
The bottom line here: lots of great Internet sites have started to appear that offer you the opportunity to give thanks in many ways to those who have served the United States in the military/armed forces. For this, we are grateful.
Social good to help out the veterans
And while we’re talking about thanking our troops, one of the things we should do is also focus on how we can help them out. Yes, I did mention Google for Veterans, but that is not necessarily a social good cause – it’s a software that allows veterans to reconnect with their loved ones. Just what do I mean? Take a look at this tweet I saw yesterday from Plancast’s Mark Hendrickson (@mhendric):
Upon closer review, I came across the Rebuild Hope website where it wasn’t just a donation website where all money went towards a general cause, but rather one focused on specific individuals and their plight. We all know that there are a lot of veterans that are coming back and suffering and yes we can chime in and send some money to worthy organizations like the USO or veteran hospitals, but the one way we can help better is by getting to know their own individual plights and dilemmas. That way we feel a bit more invested in the cause and can think of doing something more than throwing money at the “problem”. This is what I see when I look at the Rebuild Hope website. It’s not a service like what you would get from Google’s example, but rather it”s focused on veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and hearing their stories. According to the website’s mission:
Tens of thousands of U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now struggling with life-altering, service-connected injuries and psychological problems. And their adjustment to family and civilian life is made even more difficult when they must wait six months or more to receive merited disability income from the U.S. government. Even then, large numbers live below the poverty level.Through Rebuild Hope Americans help these veterans – and their caregivers and families – overcome short term financial problems and build healthier and more stable lives.
The Internet has provided us with a powerful way to share stories of not only the success, but the needs of our veterans. And while we must think that everyone comes back fine after being at war, the hard truth is that it’s not all sunshines and lolipops. In fact, there are many that are scarred both emotionally, physically, and financially and often we are not able to help them out because we don’t have a name or face to the issue. In fact, according to Paul Slovic, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, the problem with giving statistics is that they don’t “activate our moral feelings” meaning that we simply cannot comprehend the enormous numbers in our head. But if we put a person behind the campaign, people will help out more. And this is exactly what the Internet and social good has done to help honor our troops.
Of course, if you can’t donate any money or financially help out the veterans, at least make sure you tell them you’re thankful for their service. It’s our duty to thank them for theirs.
Photo credit: NYCMarines / flickr.com