Often, we think about our troops who are overseas around the holidays. But our troops serve this country all year, and they miss home in August and September as much as in November and December. Yes, holidays are very difficult for families to be apart, but let’s try to support our troops at other times during the year as well. Here are 20 ways you can support our troops right now.
1. The USO Care Package Program
The USO Care Package Program was created to provide a safe and secure way for the public to show their support for our men and women in uniform. The USO is a Congressionally-chartered nonprofit corporation whose mission is to provide morale, welfare, and recreation-type services to military personnel.
The USO operates 125 centers, including centers in Kuwait and Qatar, and will soon open a center in Afghanistan. For a $25 donation, Americans can sponsor a care package for a service member who is either on their way to an overseas assignment or currently deployed.
Each USO Care Package is assembled by volunteers and contains at a minimum, a 100-minute international calling card, a disposable camera, toiletries, sunscreen, and a message of support from a Care Package sponsor. Over 480,000 care packages have been distributed since December 2004. Additional information about the USO Care Package Program is available at www.usocares.org or by calling (877) USO-GIVE.
2. Project Homefront
Project Homefront is a way to help take care of the families of our troops. While our troops take care of our homeland, we can help take care of their homes. This was originally created by Home Depot to help over 1,700 of their associates currently serving in the military but they have extended the program, in coordination with Rebuilding Together and USA Freedom Corps, to help the families of all active duty military. This effort will help these families keep up their home lives and their homes while their loved ones are away. You can: volunteer, sponsor a house, start an affiliate or help in other ways. To find out how you can help go to: http://www.projecthomefront.org
3. Adopt a Soldier
My Soldier is a program that puts politics aside and lets U.S. troops know someone back home cares. Sgt. Juan Salas, who served for 14 months in Iraq, established the program with the help of his school, Manhattanville College, when he returned from the war. The goal of the program is to show support for troops by establishing pen-pal relationships with them. When you enroll in the no-cost My Soldier program, you agree to adopt a soldier. You will receive a starter kit containing a red My Soldier bracelet to publicly show your support for American troops and guidelines for writing letters to your soldier. http://www.mville.edu/mysoldier/index.html
4. Furry Friends
Pets can be a great source of comfort for troops. Many American military adopted cats and dogs from overseas and want to return home with them. This is where Military Mascots steps in. There are several opportunities to support our military in bringing their pets home: You can become a pet foster home, caring for a pet until a soldier is rotated home. Greet pets at the airport, helping them clear customs or making sure they catch connecting flights. To help to sponsor a mascot go to http://www.militarymascots.org for more information.
If you like to sew, people are needed to sew blankets for the thousands of wounded soldiers in our country and in hospital’s abroad. These blankets have brought hope to many of our wounded heroes. To get involved send an email to [email protected]
6. Gift Cards
Our troops and their families will always appreciate gift certificates for restaurants and groceries. How about a gift certificate that can be used at any commissary in the world?
7. Get involved with the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes
Every day a wounded veteran and their family must struggle to overcome the loss of a limb, significant burns, or even the reality of being in a wheelchair. The Coalition’s mission is to help them overcome these obstacles and resume a productive and fulfilling life. The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes was created to provide an easy and meaningful way for individuals, corporations and others to help our severely wounded and disabled veterans and their families rebuild their lives. There are many ways you can support Salute America’s Heroes. You can find details on their website http://www.saluteheroes.org.
Volunteer at a local VA Hospital to honor veterans who served in the past. These soldiers are lonely and need to know they are still appreciated and remembered.
Show respect, gratitude and thanks to the troops by studying and understanding the contributions made by the military to American history, as well as the contributions they are making today to create history.
10. Local Schools
Talk to your local schools and offer to help coordinate inviting veterans into the classrooms so students can meet “real people” who have served their country. Putting a human face on history can make it so much more powerful.
11. Send some Love
Send cards and notes to veterans who are in the hospital and those living in veteran’s homes. Often, they feel alone and forgotten. Your cards and notes can let them know their contribution was appreciated.
Send any soldier you might know or are pen pals with a local newspaper. Access to the daily news may not mean much to you, but to someone in foreign lands, having this connection to home will be so meaningful.
12. Coordinate Drives
Organize a frisbee and card drive for the troops. They can play with frisbees and cards during down time, and they are easy to transport.
13. Show Gratitude
When you see a service member in uniform, remember to offer a word of thanks for their service and for their dedication to keeping our country safe. Their sacrifice is something we can never repay, but we can say thank you.
14. “Cell Phones for Soldiers” program
The “Cell Phones for Soldiers” program was started by thirteen- year old Brittany Bergquist and her twelve-year old brother Robbie of Norwell, MA. After hearing a news report about a local soldier who ran up a massive phone bill calling home from Iraq, they decided they wanted to do something to help.
Donated cell phones will go to recyclers. The income generated goes to purchase calling cards for our troops. You can send them directly to the recyclers or put together a community effort to collect 50 or more. This qualifies for a free pickup and delivery from FedEx, one of their corporate sponsors.
Communication is so vital to our troops and this is a way everyone can help. How many people do you know with old cell phones? For more information, go to www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com.
Defenders of Freedom.us is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting our men and women in uniform. They support our troops who are at war, wounded in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, and their families. The organization’s volunteers raise funds through various venues with 100% of all money going to the troops.
A great way to help is to purchase a wristband to show your support for our troops. They cost just $2.00 and are an easy way to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers. Due to the nature of the tie-dye, no 2 bracelets will ever be the same.
Go to: http://www.DefendersofFreedom.us for more information.
16. Raise your flag
Fly your flag in support of our troops and our country.
17. Donate, donate, donate
Donate your slightly used paperback books to our troops through Operation Paperback. Many of our troops are serving far from home and living in facilities that provide few of the comforts of home. There is very little for servicemen and women to do after serving a long day, and the opportunity to escape in a good book is welcomed.
Every week Operation Paperback receives thanks from servicemen and women who are glad to be appreciated and remembered. Go to their website at: http://operationpaperback.usmilitarysupport.org to get all the information you need to become part of their project. Visit a local used book store and ask if they will donate. Go to new bookstores as well. When a book’s shelf life expires, they are returned to the publisher.
18. Yard sales
Go to garage sales and ask people if they will donate leftover books to troops. You always find a lot of books at yard sales. Pick them up at the end of the sale and handle shipping them.
19. Join a pack
Form a neighborhood support team if you have a soldier who is serving overseas who lives nearby. Find out what your neighbors need, organize a team, then all commit to doing your part.
20. It’s the Thought that Counts
Keep all service men and women and their families in your thoughts and prayers.
This list could keep going. Ginny Dye wrote a small ebook of ‘101 Ways to Support our Troops’ in 2005. Her goal was to get as many of these suggestions to as many people as possible. Thank you, Ginny, for some of these wonderful ideas!
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