A recent story in the Omaha World Herald reminds us of the wounds, not all of them physical, that many of our veterans live with.

Gabriel Florido, a decorated Vietnam War veteran from Omaha, “opened a package from the U.S. government and discovered that someone at the Department of Veterans Affairs had altered his address and had mailed his medications to ‘Coo-Coo Lane.’”

For many years, Florido has been receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder at the VA. He was understandably hurt and humiliated by this apparent “joke.” It appeared that someone had changed his address to make fun of his mental illness. Florido couldn’t understand why someone would do such a thing, and it didn’t help that his complaint to the VA went unanswered until the World Herald got involved.

PTSD is nothing to joke about. War continues for veterans who suffer from PTSD, and their struggles with it have brought the disorder to public attention. Our veterans should be shown respect, but often, people aren’t sure how to help them.

Here are a few ideas on how to give back to our veterans:

Befriend the veterans in your neighborhood. If you know of veterans in your neighborhood, look out for them. You can show your gratitude for veterans in a number of different ways. Deliver a meal or a plate of cookies every once in a while. You can remove snow or mow their lawn. Invite them over if you’re having a grill-out, or just stop to talk when you see them outside.

Say thank you. It doesn’t have to be Veteran’s or Memorial Day to say “thank you” to a veteran. It’s a simple gesture, but it can make a major impact. You’d be surprised that many veterans have never heard the words “thank you” from a civilian. If you see someone in their military uniform or know a veteran, express your gratitude.

Send a care package.Operation Gratitude sends packages to current military members as well as veterans, wounded warriors, and their caregivers. It also has a letter writing campaign that encourages people to write handwritten letters of thanks to veterans.

Donate to the Honor Flight Network.The Honor Flight Network helps veterans make a trip free of charge to the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Honor Flight also helps Korean and Vietnam War veterans visit memorials to those wars in D.C. as well.

Help them get professional help. Soldiers sometimes have a hard time seeking help, believing depression and other symptoms to be signs of weakness. If you feel that a veteran you know struggles with PTSD, offer to help them find a therapist that they can talk to. A therapist can work with them on strategies for living with PTSD and can also refer them to a support group; it can be very healing for a veteran to talk with other vets who have been through similar experiences.

Our veterans have made enormous sacrifices for us and have asked for very little in return. We should show them gratitude and respect, and whenever possible, reach out a hand to help. It’s the least we can do.

If you would like to set up an appointment to see Reka, you can reach her at 402-881-8125. You can also email her at reka@omaha-counseling.com. Make sure to follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

photo credit: Honor Flight 4.30.11-0502 via photopin (license)