“Thank you for your service” is the common way we recognize our Service members in uniform. But we may miss the same opportunity to say thanks to Guard and Reserve members, whose routine service tends to go unnoticed by civilians. Thanksgiving may be the right time to start a new practice.

This year as you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal, think about turning your spirit of gratitude for things past, toward the future. We hope you’ll consider ways you can give thanks in the coming year to all Guard and Reserve members and their families for their courage and sacrifices.

To help you get started, we’ve gathered here 7 ideas that will last way beyond the holiday season.

1. Volunteer

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What better way to give thanks than to give back? The military-related volunteer opportunities out there are too numerous to count, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve: Ranging from employer and military outreach, to public affairs work and acting as an ombudsman between employers and Service members, your efforts would help improve the relationships our brave men and women have with their employers.

Your local VA Hospital: According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 140,000 volunteers have given 11 million hours of their time to VA hospitals. Discover ways to help.

National Guard Volunteer Program: Take the opportunity to “Volunteer For the America’s All Volunteer Force.” Your hours could be spent supporting the National Guard families, youth, and much more.


2. Be informed

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Watch the news. Follow military-related social media feeds. Learn about veterans issues. After all, our Service members devote their lives to protecting our nation. Stay informed about the challenges they face.

According to one Army reservist, getting informed is a great way to give thanks:

For me, the greatest way to thank a veteran is to get to know one, and also to get educated on veterans’ issues. Then, use that knowledge to vote responsibly in local, state, and federal elections, especially those with referenda on military issues. We serve the people, and the first way for the people to thank us is to use their civic power in an informed, responsible manner.


 3. Support Veterans Service Organizations

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There are many organizations that need your support to fulfill their missions, such as building houses for Service members, rehabilitation and counseling for wounded warriors, and rehabilitation for canine Service veterans. Veterans Affairs lists these recommended and approved military organizations and charities.

Also, if you are an employee of the federal government, you can take advantage of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) to donate to CFC-approved charities through your workplace.


4. If you are an employer, sign ESGR’s Statement of Support

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Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud signs an Employer Support of Guard and Reserve Statement of Support. Looking on is U.S. Army Col. Dawn Devine, ESGR Chief of Military Engagement.

Join thousands of employers by signing a Statement of Support for the Guard and Reserve and display it prominently for all your employees and visitors to see.


5. Attend military-related events

image007This might be a parade on Veterans or Memorial Day in your community, a concert featuring one of the more than 50 Army and Air National Guard bands across the country, or a walk or race honoring military personnel. The Marine Corps Marathon and Army Ten-Miler come to mind. Your very presence at these events is a strong show of support.


6. On military recognition days, take a moment to reflect—and act

image011Memorial Day is not just another long weekend. It’s a time to remember and reflect on our nation’s fallen soldiers. In addition to the biggies, like Memorial and Veterans Day, there are many other notable dates related to military service, such as Military Spouse Appreciation Day (the Friday before Mother’s Day), PTSD Awareness Day (June 27), or the Day of the Deployed (October 26). Keep track of it all with a good calendar.

To turn your appreciation into action, you might

  • Send a personal note of support to a military spouse on Military Spouse Appreciation Day.
  • If age appropriate, contact your child’s teacher and ask them to include a discussion on understanding PTSD on PTSD Awareness Day.
  • Deliver a scrapbook to a family coping with a deployed member, or point them to MilitaryKidsConnect, a website for military children.

7. Befriend an aging veteran

image009Maybe you meet him or her at a Veterans Day parade, or through a casual conversation at the grocery store. A chance encounter can lead to an opportunity to help out with small favors, or a meaningful and lasting friendship. He or she might be in need of companionship, and you can benefit from the wisdom that comes from another’s lifetime of experiences.

If you don’t want to wait for a chance meeting to occur, you might consider volunteering with an assisted living facility or nursing home—or just attend events at your local VFW and American Legion posts. In other words, network.


Looking for an ongoing source of information? Connect with ESGR, YRRP (Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program), and SMFR (Service Member and Family Readiness) on social media to learn more about your neighbors and friends serving in the Guard and Reserve. Sometimes giving thanks is just a matter of knowing how.