Celebrating Our Veterans Respectfully - Premier Counseling
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Celebrating Our Veterans Respectfully

By: Casey Hall, PHD, LPC-S, LMFT-S


Celebrating Our Veterans and First Responders


Celebrating our veterans and first responders is a natural inclination, and there are multiple ways that we can help them to feel seen, heard, and appreciated while remaining respectful.


Once discharged or retired, veterans and first responders can unfortunately begin to feel unimportant. This is a normal part of the grief of retiring or being discharged, or a sign that they’re struggling with some elements of re-acclimating to civilian life. 


The good news is that these feelings can be combated with regular reminders that all they’ve sacrificed and dedicated their time and efforts to is remembered and appreciated.


You might wonder, ‘how can I show interest in my veteran’s/first responder’s experiences without overstepping?’ Or, ‘is saying ‘thank you,’ enough?’


Here are some ways to navigate these conversations, and things to keep in mind when they happen.

Photo by Iiona Virgin

The Importance of Listening to Veterans and First Responders


Beyond giving a heartfelt, ‘thank you for your service,’ there is little a veteran or retired first responder appreciates more than a non-judgmental ear, and a genuine interest in their work history. 


Asking about their work can be tricky, though, as no one wants to unintentionally trigger or upset a veteran or first responder by bringing up unprocessed or upsetting memories or emotions.


A helpful reminder for veterans and first responders, year-round, is to tell them that they don’t need a special occasion to share memories of their work with you. Even if the veteran or first responder in your life chooses not to speak about their work when given these opportunities, these regular reminders are comforting to them, and give them a sense of security.


It’s important to remind them regularly of this invitation to speak, because when Veteran’s Day passes, or birthdays or special anniversaries pass, they may feel like the appropriate window to speak has passed. Explicit, repeated invitation to speak is encouraged.


Examples of this may sound like, “you know you can tell me about your time as a [firefighter/marine/EMT/sailor/etc] any time, right? You don’t need an excuse.” / “Anytime you want to talk about your time in [first response/the military], I’m always here to listen. I’m happy to be here for you.”

Photo by Ian Schneider

Ways to Engage the Veteran or First Responder in Your Life


Respectful questions about their work might sound like this:


  • “What achievement in your [military career/first response work] are you most proud of?”
  • “What qualification/certification/license that you earned was the hardest to get?”
  • “What was the most beautiful place you ever worked/were deployed to?”
  • “What are some of your favorite memories from your [military career/first response work]?”


When engaging your veteran or retired first responder, remember for yourself, and be sure to remind them that the past is a fine place to visit, but not to stay. 


These memories and achievements are important to acknowledge and inevitably, more complicated memories and feelings will arise with these happy ones. While noting the significance of their past, remind them that you’re happy that they are here with you, in the here-and-now.


Allowing the veteran or retired first responder in your life to talk about their past helps them to normalize those complex feelings, allows for healthy communication, and an unburdening. 


The knowledge that not only do they not have to carry all of this alone, but that their loved ones don’t judge them for the complexities of their work is a wonderful way to honor their sacrifices and contributions.  


Spend time with the veteran or first responder in your life, and let them know they’re heard, seen, appreciated, loved and honored for all they’ve done.


Central Arkansas Group Counseling offers a multitude of services that can help benefit you, your family, your veteran or first responder, and we are uniquely equipped to keep you and your family happy and healthy.


Make an appointment today, check our news or events calendar for updates and group therapies that can benefit you and your loved ones — and most of all, thank you for your service.

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