Men and women in the military give up a lot to protect our country and our freedoms. Those who have families may encounter unique challenges. People who are unable to serve in the military may wish they could do something to help these families. Fortunately, there are a number of organizations that have been created to help with just this task.
Military Family Association
The Military Family Association (MMA) helps military families with two different programs.
Scholarships for Military Spouses
The moves required when married to a soldier, combined with financial hardships, often make it hard for a spouse to complete college. One of the MFA's programs meets this need by providing scholarships for military spouses. There are two scholarships available to spouses. The general military spouse scholarship and a mental health career scholarship. The general scholarship is named the Joanne Holbrook Patton Scholarship and is a very flexible $1000 scholarship that can be applied to attaining a GED, licenses or certificates, post-secondary or graduate level work. To apply, you must simply be a military spouse with valid identification. The scholarship is awarded based on financial need and must be used toward a US school. To apply for the Mental Health Careers Scholarship, you must be a military spouse, have at least a master's degree in counseling, psychology, social work, or psychiatry, and be starting or have started "clinical supervision hours."
MMA also offers retreats for military families. Operation Purple Camps operates summer camps for military children, including teens. The camps bring together children from various military families for fun and adventure for one week during the summer. The overall goal of the camp is to provide the children of soldiers with the stresses of dealing with a parent who is, has been, or will be deployed. Children with a parent deployed or to be deployed most recently are given preference for camp openings. In addition to summer camps for children, Operation Purple also offers family retreats. These retreats are a good way for families to reconnect after a soldier returns from deployment. While having fun, families learn important communication techniques to bring them closer and strengthen bonds. Operation Purple also offers healing adventures. The purpose of these family getaways is to help families learn to deal with the injury of a soldier and find ways to still have fun and connect as a family.
Fisher House Foundation
While a military veteran is receiving treatment at a medical center, the family needs lodging so that they can be near their fallen soldier. The Fisher House Foundation provide housing options for these families at no charge. Every major medical center for military and VA hospital in the United States has at least one Fisher House facility available. There are facilities in Europe as well.
The organization helps about 19,000 military families each year. Each house has between eight and 21 family suites. The suites are set up for families with private bedrooms and bathrooms. There is a common area for all those staying in the different suites that offers a kitchen, dining room, living room and laundry. The common area has a library for everyone and toys for children.
Donate Miles and Reward Points
In addition, Fisher House runs a program called the Hero Miles. People can donate their frequent flyer miles to the charity, and those miles are then used to fly family members to the bedside of their wounded soldier. Similarly, they also accept hotel reward points through their Hotels for Heroes program. These hotel reward points are then given to military families to stay in a hotel near their wounded soldier, should there be no room in the local Fisher House.
Wounded Warrior Project
The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) seeks to give back to soldiers wounded in the line of duty. They have a number of programs covering various moments in a soldier's journey to wellness, which are divided into four main categories.
The organization offers several different programs that focus on mental wellness for wounded soldiers and their families. These programs help with recovery from combat stress, allow soldiers and their families to attend retreats, offer couples the chance to reconnect after dealing with separation due to active duty and issues caused by couples dealing with combat stress. Soldiers will also find peer support opportunities and other mental health resources.
In addition to focusing on the mental health of soldiers, WWP offers opportunities for soldiers to become physically strong again. In addition to rehabilitation, WWP provides opportunities for sports adapted to the solider's ability and resources to help with health and nutrition. The organization also partners with Hangar Prosthetics and Orthotics to offer soldiers the opportunity to get prosthetics to replace lost limbs and will also provide the therapy to learn how to use those new prosthetics in day-to-day living. They also provide soldiers in the hospital with backpacks that contain some essential items such as clothing, playing cards and personal hygiene products. Families are provided with a similar backpack for the spouse, but these contain items like a neck pillow and planner.
Severely wounded soldiers may be unable to perform work they were previously trained for. WWP offers training programs, such as TRACK. TRACK is a one year program that gives wounded warriors a fast track training to a new career path. The organization also offers training in information technology. When the soldier is ready to head into the civilian work force, WWP offers Warriors to Work, where they will match the soldiers with an employer willing to hire veterans.
Feeling like he has a voice is important to the mental well-being of soldiers. WWP gives soldiers the chance to "stay engaged" by giving them a voice in legislation, helping them stay connected with other soldiers, help understanding available benefits and how to access them and peer mentoring.
You can support their programs with a donation or by listing an event on the website for $99. This will give you promotion for your business while helping military families. According to their donation FAQs, 82.8 percent of donated funds go directly to fund programs that help military families, and you can donate online.
Homes for Our Troops
Wounded soldiers may come back to civilian living needing special adjustments to their homes that they can ill afford to implement. That is where organizations like Homes for Our Troops step in, and provide relief. The organization builds new homes for wounded soldiers. To qualify you need to be a "medically retired veteran," and your injury must have happened while on active duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation New Dawn. Surviving spouses of those killed in active duty in those battles may also apply so long as the surviving spouse has not remarried. To apply, you must not own a home or have a mortgage on a home. You also should not have a history of loan foreclosures. You must live in the home that is built, making it your primary resident, for three years.
Donate online, by phone or via mail. They will set up a recurring monthly donation if you'd like. In addition to donating money, you can also support the organization by They also encourage people to donate assets, land or materials, or professional labor. If you'd rather volunteer, you can fill out their online form and they'll be in touch with you about getting connected with a local project.
Our Military Kids
Our Military Kids focuses on easing the stress children may feel as a result of a parent being away. The organization offers grants to pay for these kids to participate in camps, fine arts programs, sports and tutoring.
To be eligible for a grant:
- The child must be between the ages of three and 18
- Must have a parent on overseas deployment through Reserves or National Guard or a parent who is a wounded warrior
The grants are only awarded one time per child.
You can make a financial contribution online, or find other ways to support the organization such as host a fundraiser, or get involved through eBay Giving Works or Goodsearch and Goodshop where you can browse the web or shop online and earn money for the organization. You can also contact the organization for questions or to volunteer your time to help with grant processing, public relations, graphic design or office administrative tasks.
Adopting a Family Directly
In addition to donating through an organization, you can help a military family directly by sending them care packages and letters. If you do not personally know someone serving in the military, ask at church or through organizations you belong to. Often, you can find a family in need simply by asking if anyone you know has a family member serving who would like to receive care packages for himself or his family. By adopting a family and sending items directly to them, you are certain that they receive 100 percent of what you donate without any taken out for administrative costs. However, if you cannot find a military family to donate to, you can consider finding an organization that focuses on providing for a military family's financial needs.
Be Cautious About Scams
Scambusters.org cautions do-gooders to be wary about donating to anyone you don't know when buying fundraising items and to be cautious of phone calls soliciting funds. While some might be legitimate, many are not. The Federal Trade Commission suggests checking out a charity thoroughly before donating. You can search for details on sites like Charity Navigator, GuideStar, Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Watch.
Giving to military families is an important part of patriotism for people, but trust your instincts and do your research to be certain your money is going where it is intended.