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11 Things To Keep In Mind When Talking To Veterans

We can all go beyond saying "Thank you for your service." NAPA AUTO PARTS has teamed with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund to help salute all of our troops and military families.

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When we meet a veteran, many of us opt to say "Thank you for your service." Sometimes, we say this because we don't know what else to say.

This statement always comes from the right place, but many veterans feel uncomfortable and don't know how to respond. And many sense that the words lack real meaning. There are better ways to connect with someone who has served.
Peathegee Inc / Getty Images

This statement always comes from the right place, but many veterans feel uncomfortable and don't know how to respond. And many sense that the words lack real meaning.

There are better ways to connect with someone who has served.

First, some things that you should avoid when speaking to a veteran:

1.

It is never OK to ask a veteran how many people they shot or whether or not they are suffering from PTSD.
Dollface Photos / Getty Images

It is never OK to ask a veteran how many people they shot or whether or not they are suffering from PTSD.

2.

If you have not served in the military, then you won't be able to fully understand a veteran's experience. Don't compare something difficult that you've gone through with the difficulty of combat.
DanielBendjy / Getty Images

If you have not served in the military, then you won't be able to fully understand a veteran's experience. Don't compare something difficult that you've gone through with the difficulty of combat.

3.

Just because someone looks physically like he or she survived their time in the military unscathed, that doesn't mean that it has been easy to return home. Assuming that everything is OK reinforces the invisibility some veterans feel.
Original photo by Mark Baldwin / Getty Images

Just because someone looks physically like he or she survived their time in the military unscathed, that doesn't mean that it has been easy to return home. Assuming that everything is OK reinforces the invisibility some veterans feel.

4.

For many veterans, this is an incredibly complicated question that is difficult to deal with.
Catherine Lane / Getty Images

For many veterans, this is an incredibly complicated question that is difficult to deal with.

5.

It is never helpful to imply that a veteran chose the wrong path or that civilian life is superior.
Daniel Bendjy / Getty Images

It is never helpful to imply that a veteran chose the wrong path or that civilian life is superior.

So what SHOULD you say? Here are some productive ways to talk to a veteran:

6.

This statement is simple but meaningful.
LWA/Dann Tardif / Getty Images

This statement is simple but meaningful.

7.

This simple question acknowledges that a veteran has been through something big, and it opens up the conversation so that they can talk if they want to.
William Harris / Getty Images

This simple question acknowledges that a veteran has been through something big, and it opens up the conversation so that they can talk if they want to.

8.

Be supportive without being intrusive. Many veterans want to talk about their experience (and some don't). Give veterans the space to talk if they want to, and really listen if they choose to share with you.
Catherine Ledner / Getty Images

Be supportive without being intrusive. Many veterans want to talk about their experience (and some don't). Give veterans the space to talk if they want to, and really listen if they choose to share with you.

9.

On Veterans Day, we honor all veterans of the armed forces — living or dead. On Memorial Day, we honor those veterans who died in combat. It is important to know this distinction and not to call out veterans on Memorial Day, which is reserved for those who died while serving.
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On Veterans Day, we honor all veterans of the armed forces — living or dead. On Memorial Day, we honor those veterans who died in combat. It is important to know this distinction and not to call out veterans on Memorial Day, which is reserved for those who died while serving.

10.

Expressing interest in an individual veteran's situation shows them that you genuinely care and want to hear about their experience.
Blend Images / Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

Expressing interest in an individual veteran's situation shows them that you genuinely care and want to hear about their experience.

11.

Understand that the transition can be hard, and offer veterans any support you are able to provide.
Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

Understand that the transition can be hard, and offer veterans any support you are able to provide.

NAPA AUTO PARTS is teaming up with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund to help heal returning military personnel suffering from psychological health conditions like PTSD or TBI.

View this video on YouTube

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To learn more about how to help veterans with PTSD, click here.