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4 Ways to Talk to Older Veterans About their Service

10 Nov 2020

4 Ways to Talk to Older Veterans About their Service

By: Martin Gallogly

Veterans Day is this week, and many Rhode Islanders will take time to call or visit with their loved ones who have served. These brave men and women each have their own experiences and feelings about the time they’ve spent in uniform. It is important we take the time to listen to those veterans and their stories. So this Veteran’s Day, here are some tips for talking to the older adult veteran in your life.

Make sure they are comfortable with sharing

No veteran should be made to feel uncomfortable when asked about their service. Remember, this is about connecting with the people you care about – they need to know that you are here to listen first and speak second. That approach will help ensure that they take the conversation in a direction they are comfortable with.

Make it about their experience

Most veterans understand the disconnect between military and civilian life. Exploring that lifestyle difference can be an eye-opener for friends and relatives, making it a good place to start a conversation.

Talk about shared service or background

Do you have another family member who served in the military? What about a friend who worked with the Peace Corps or another community service organization? Sharing these common experiences can widen conversations into broader topics and bridge the gap between veterans and their loved ones.

Look at alternative ways of expression

Not everyone enjoys talking about their experiences. For many veterans, writing in a journal or drawing in a sketchbook can be just as expressive. You can find out if that is something they are interested in, or something they do already. Ask if they are comfortable letting you look at their work and discuss it with them.