“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Volunteering is a great equalizer. Everyone has the ability to share time and energy with others. National Volunteer Month represents a time to celebrate not only the meaningful contributions volunteers make to communities and organizations, but also ways giving back can benefit volunteers themselves – especially veterans who have dedicated their lives to serving others.
Many veterans readjusting to civilian life feel isolated due to physical and invisible wounds of war, and they find it challenging to connect with others. Our nation’s warriors develop strong senses of purpose and camaraderie on the battlefield and can benefit immensely from the ability to continue giving back, sharing experiences, and deepening connections after their military service has ended.
Volunteering helps address these needs. Studies have shown that people who volunteer regularly expand their support systems and feel more socially connected with others who share common interests. Volunteers experience decreases in depression and higher levels of mental well-being than those who never volunteer. There are even physical benefits to giving back, including reduced chronic pain, lower blood pressures, and longer lifespans.
Peer Support Groups, like those organized across the country by Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP), represent a powerful way for warriors to volunteer alongside fellow veterans and share experiences and support. According to the 2016 WWP Annual Warrior Survey, more than half of registered warriors reported talking to another veteran is one way they address mental health concerns. WWP’s Peer Support Groups foster a renewed sense of community, strengthen bonds, and help veterans address unique challenges they might be facing during readjustment – ultimately providing an experience in which veterans give and receive support that empowers all involved.
WWP and other veteran organizations like Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues further help warriors continue serving one another and their communities through activities like building homes and supporting the homeless. These types of opportunities can provide veterans with an increased sense of purpose and fulfill their desire to continue giving back after their military service has ended.
During National Volunteer Month and throughout the year, it’s important that we not only honor our veterans’ service by donating time, energy, and resources to support their needs, but also continue to provide them with meaningful opportunities to connect with and serve one another.