A wide variety of options exist when it comes to supporting U.S. military troops stationed abroad or here in the U.S. Emotional support, gifts at the holidays or year-round and offering aid to spouses and families while loved ones are away are just a few of the ways you can show your support and appreciation.
Whether you provide direct support or donate time or money to organizations that do, your help will be welcome. Although the post-911 anthrax scare of 2001 forced the military to ask the public to refrain from sending mail directly to service members who are not close friends or relatives, you can send care packages via a number of non-profit groups. Hugs for Heroes, Troops Need You, Tea Party Vets and American War Mothers are a few examples.
Injuries, war-related emotional issues and lack of veteran housing are just a few of the issues addressed by organizations who support the military troops. Your visit to a VA hospital may be just what the doctor ordered for an ill or injured veteran. Donations to American Archangels help re-acclimate disabled veterans to civilian life after war. Pillows for Soldiers and Warmth for Warriors provide large, comfortable pillows and crocheted hats to soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, while a large number of groups send volunteers to greet and cheer on veterans as they return home after serving abroad.
Families of troops stationed overseas need emotional and financial support as well. The National Military Family Association offers a wide array of services and funds to military spouses and families. The Fisher House Foundation allows loved ones to stay with injured military members at donated houses on military and VA medical center campuses. In addition to accepting monetary donations, this non-profit organization applies frequent flier donations to transportation for family members.
The number of different ways to support the military troops is virtually unlimited. Through donations of time, money and other resources, you can help improve the lives of soldiers currently serving their country, as well as their spouses and children. And don’t forget to show your gratitude and support for the veterans who need emotional support and assistance with disabilities and re-integrating into society.
A great way to help the brave members of our military might not seem obvious. Many people think the only way to help out is to send our heroes a box of cookies or a fruitcake. Some families choose to send bullet-proof vests or cooling vests for their sons and daughters. But if you ask a few service members, they’ll tell you that one of the best ways to support the troops is to support their military working dogs. While the military takes good care of the service members, the guard dogs, search dogs and bomb sniffers don’t have the same sort of protection.
Temperatures in the Middle East can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In that sort of heat, dogs can only do their job for about 60 to 90 minutes before they’re exhausted. In many situations, dogs are the first line of defense. If the dogs are not energetic and fresh, our troops can be put in harm’s way. These dogs have no natural protection from the heat, blowing sand, harsh mountains and extreme noises of the battlefield. By helping to protect the dogs, you’re helping to protect all the troops.
At http://www.supportmilitaryworkingdogs.org/, you can contribute to the daily needs of our military working dogs. This non-profit organization has already provided gear for over 200 military working dog teams. What began as the “Cooling Vest Project” has grown into a program that provides all sorts of protective gear for all sorts of K9 needs.
Your $400 contribution enables the purchase of several items for each dog. To keep the sand out of their eyes, the dog gets a set of dog goggles, called Doggles. For their tender paws, the dogs get a set of Muttluks. Mutt Muffs protect their ears from the noise of the battlefield. A FURminator keeps their coat clean and free of mange. Also included is a water carrier with cover, a collapsible water bowl, a dog toy and a reward treat. You can also buy an extendable leash, a harness, a plastic food container or tracking equipment.
Our troops depend on military working dogs for so many things on the battlefield. By contributing to the dogs’ well-being, you’re contributing to the well-being of all of our service members. Heroes can have four paws too.
While people think that care packages are the only way to support our military troops, there are actually many other ways that you can help provide assistance to service members and their families.
There are several Department of Defense-approved charitable organizations that can help provide military personnel, combat veterans and military families with caregiver support, education and scholarships, electronics, employment assistance and vocational training, entertainment and recreation, financial support, help for the wounded, military family support, military spouse support and housing assistance, among other things. You can find resources and links to all of the organizations that help out our troops by visiting http://www.ourmilitary.mil/resources/community-support-for-our-military/.
Certain organizations, like Southeastern Guide Dogs, provide wounded service members with specially trained service dogs. Most of these dogs act as aides for the visually impaired, but many veterans who have lost their legs or have had their legs critically injured also rely on guide dogs to help them maintain balance and walk properly.
Several combat veterans are at risk of committing suicide or are at risk of other debilitating psychological conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many organizations use donations from civilians to make sure that care and rehabilitation programs are provided to these individuals, as well as to fund research into further preventing and treating these disorders.
During the holidays, several organizations go the extra mile in order to make our deployed soldiers feel that they are still involved in day-to-day life here in the United States. Many organizations provide toys for military children, and other organizations donate Christmas trees to military bases and installations in domestic and international locations. Other organizations participate in “Wreaths Across America,” which aims to place a wreath on the grave of every veteran who is buried in a national cemetery during the Christmas season.
Not all military support has to be financial in nature. Many of these above-listed organizations need volunteers to help administer care and perform work. Http://www.serve.gov/vets.asp will allow you to find several volunteer opportunities that will fit your schedule and level of commitment. Our military troops sacrifice so much to help defend our country and all its freedoms. Show them how much their efforts are appreciated and how much you care by providing them with some assistance and support.
Until recently, if you wanted to send a letter of support or a care package to one of our service members, all you had to do was address it to “Any Service Member” and drop it in the mail. The U.S. Post Office made sure the package was delivered to a deserving hero stationed far from home. Anonymous letters and packages are no longer accepted due to increased postal regulations. It’s still possible to show your support for the troops, but you have to use an intermediary to get the goods to the intended service members.
The Pentagon is recommending that people who want to show their thanks to the troops should make monetary contributions, purchase packages from authorized organizations or volunteer their time at a local non-profit company or Veterans’ Administration hospital. There’s no shortage of websites and community-driven solutions if you want to send encouragement to those in harm’s way. You can also donate to places that help support the troops’ families as they try to make ends meet.
There are over 300 nonprofit agencies that are pleased to help distribute your good wishes to our service members in the field, in the hospital or trying to adjust to life in the United States. Here’s a list of several organizations that will help you send gift cards, greeting cards, care packages and other goodies to the troops.
• Tae Bo creator Billy Blanks set up The Billy Blanks Foundation to send packages to the U.S. service members stationed in Afghanistan. The foundation also offers scholarships and donates to after-school programs.
• You can send books, CDs, DVDs and even MP3 players to the troops through the Books for Soldiers program.
• You’ll help troops stay in touch with their loved ones at home through Operation Uplink by donating a telephone calling card.
• Buy gift certificates for wounded and active-duty service members via the Army and Air Force Exchange Services.
• Donate cash to Operation Air Conditioner to help the troops stay cool in the heat of the desert. They also send heaters to those troops in colder climates.
• Donations to American Red Cross Armed Forces provide medical services to active duty troops, veterans, reservists and their families.
• Giving to the USO supports recuperating soldiers and funds USO entertainment tours. A $25 donation is all it takes to send a care package to a service member.
It’s always important to show support for the people who fight for our continued freedom and ensure that we can maintain our standard of life without having to fear any disruptions due to forced military service. Our troops defend us against foreign and domestic enemies, and many of them do not get to be with their families during the holidays or throughout the year. There are also several troops who don’t have anyone to come back home to. Many of our troops go without several of the comforts we get to enjoy here at home. Sending our troops care packages through a charitable organization is just one way to show your support for the troops and help bring smiles to their faces.
Many organizations can help you provide a care package to troops in all of the branches of the military. Some of them, like the United Service Organizations (USO), simply ask for cash donations that will be used to purchase items for a care package. For safety’s sake, these packages are often assembled at National Guard Armories. Some organizations are very faith-focused and will use your donations to help many of the troops receive spiritual literature.
Certain organizations allow you to “adopt” a soldier and send him or her specific snacks, books, games, CDs, movies, hygiene products, international calling cards and other gifts. One of the best benefits of adopting a soldier is that you are often asked to maintain contact with him or her, and you can actually get to know them personally. Many organizations make it a requirement that you will have to send a card or letter every week, along with one or two care packages a month.
You can also help our troops by keeping your eye out for certain promotions companies offer that benefit military personnel. If you occasionally drink beer, save any bottle caps you get from Miller High Life. Miller donates ten cents for every bottle cap that is returned to a participating retailer to pay for combat veterans to attend sports games, concerts and outdoor excursions. Cheerios recently offered a program that raised money for the USO to help the troops and their families. Many other companies raise money for military organizations and branches throughout the year, and supporting the troops can be as easy as changing the brand of toothpaste you buy.
Supporting the troops from home can be easy and inexpensive, and all of our warriors who are overseas will greatly appreciate your efforts.
The military is an integral force of liberty for the people of the United States of America. Without the men and women in military who sacrifice their own needs on a daily basis to serve us, we would not be able to enjoy the freedoms that our forefathers sought. As American citizens, it may not be our duty to serve, but it should be our honor to support those who make our livelihoods possible.
Supporting to Military Personnel Abroad
Military troops that are stationed overseas are often left feeling lonely and isolated as they serve their country far from family or friends. Personal letters, cards, and even phone calls or video chat sessions are items that members of the military look forward to with great passion. However, not every soldier has family, and many do not have the ability to communicate as often as they would like.
Anyone can support a soldier that is stationed overseas. Sending cards and letters that show how greatly they are valued is among the most valued items that military troops can receive. Sending an individual card is a great step, but gathering a group of school children, a social organization, or a religious group to send thank you letters en masse is even more meaningful.
While troops serving overseas need moral support, there are many tangible items they need as well. Field boots, all weather socks, travel size toiletries, insect repellant, and food items that have an extended shelf life can be gathered into care packages and sent overseas. There are many not for profit organizations that put together care packages for our soldiers. Individuals wishing to show their support in this way can choose to give aid to one of these organizations in the form of goods or a donation.
Supporting Military Personnel Serving Domestically
Not all troops are stationed overseas. Whether they are on military assignment domestically or if they are on leave here in the US, we can still show our support in many ways. A small, yet meaningful gesture is to personally thank members of the military when they appear in public. Be they friends or strangers, troops are grateful when shown the respect that they so deserve.
Individuals that are often forgotten are those who are left behind. The families of military service men and women are their most vital support system, but these people are seldom honored for all they do to aid those who serve our country. Sending gifts or words of encouragement, volunteering with military families, or sending donations to one of the organizations that support military families are excellent ways to offer respect.
A great way to support the returning troops is to get involved with Guitars for Vets. This non-profit organization is committed to helping returning vets by setting them up with a free guitar and complimentary guitar lessons. The gift of music has the multiple benefits of healing, self-expression and self-confidence. By offering a welcoming, caring environment to those vets who return from their assignments injured or hurting, Guitars for Vets gives veterans a renewed sense of purpose and happiness.
Patrick Nettesheim began Guitars for Veterans after a moving experience he shared with Viet Nam veteran Dan Van Buskirk. Nettesheim and Van Buskirk both grew through the series of lessons that Nettesheim donated. Van Buskirk soon realized that the lessons endowed him with more than just musicality. They raised his spirits, took his mind off his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and helped him focus on his future. Nettesheim says the lessons aren’t about learning to play the guitar. As he puts it, they breed Patience, Acceptance, Gratitude and Empathy. They put the teacher and the student on the same PAGE. Nettesheim sees the guitar as a catalyst for positive human interaction.
Guitars for Vets has over 35 chapters in 25 cities across the United States. When a veteran signs up at a local chapter, he receives a free acoustic guitar and six private lessons from a teacher who donates his time. After that, the vet moves on to group lessons with other vets in a communal setting. The group lessons provide a forum for the vets to talk with other veterans who have a similar background.
Making music has a healing power like no other hobby. It can mend a broken spirit, bring a smile to suffering vet and bind people together by sharing their creativity. Guitars for Vets has put over 1,200 guitars into the hands of vets. Their volunteer instructors have donated over 8,000 lessons to our returning warriors since 2007.
It only costs $200 to deliver the Guitars for Vets program to one soldier. Donations of time, money or guitars help continue the program, which receives no federal assistance. The program is run solely through donations.
To let our vets know they have our support after their mission is complete, donate whatever you can afford to Guitars for Vets. They do a great job of helping our heroes move on with their lives after their time in the service has ended. To participate in this feel-good program, visit http://guitars4vets.org/.