How to Meet Veterans

November 12 was Veterans Day. We've all seen or even met some Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans, and maybe even some veterans from older wars, but there aren't as many veterans left from the Korean War and WWII. Today, less than half a million of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are still alive. If you want to know what it was like to serve in those wars, start a friendship or just cheer them up for a late Veteran’s Day, there are a few ways you can meet one. If you want to know how to meet them, and want to not accidentally offend them, read on.

  • You can find a local American Legion Post or VFW and ask about volunteering opportunities.
  • Ask elderly relatives who had fathers in the armed forces.
  • Contact your state’s department of Veteran’s Affairs and ask for help locating a WWII vet.
  • Look for the distinctive ball-cap hats that say something about their service when you go out in public.
  • Ask a military/naval museum historian. Many museums do oral histories of veterans and will know of WWII vets in the area.
  • Volunteer at a VA hospital, retirement home or a Veteran’s home. There are also state retirement homes for veterans.
  • Attend a Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day event and look for the distinctive hats and ball-caps.

Be mindful that veterans don’t like trying to share their experiences with people who lack the capacity to understand and listen, so go in with an open and non-judgmental mind, ask smart questions, and do a little bit of research, or just brush up on conditions in the European and Pacific theaters. The Pacific Theater was especially brutal, and absolutely horrible for POWs, so be mindful of this. One way to get them to talk is asking them about who their best friend was during the war and what that person was like.