There are a number of ways to support military families, to show your gratitude for all they do and for all the sacrifices they make. From writing letters or fostering a pet, to paying respects at the graves of fallen soldiers and donating to causes that help military families, here's how to lend your assistance and demonstrate your appreciation.
Volunteer Your Time
Volunteering your time is a great way to show your support for military members and their families. There are various ways you can volunteer, whether by sending a care package or connecting with service members in person.
Connect With Veterans or Wounded Service Members
Paying a visit to a veteran or a service member who has become injured or disabled is a wonderful way to show support and to help the individual feel cared for and valued. You can contact nursing homes or VA hospitals in your area about the possibility of paying a visit. Enrich the life of a former service member by bringing a small gift, card, or even a personal story of your connection to the military.
Another great way to provide comfort and support is to invite a service member or two to your home for dinner, whether it be during the holidays or on a rainy evening. You can find an installation near you and ask to speak to their community relations about connecting with a service member who is stationed alone in your area. You can also ask to be connected with a service member's family and provide help and support to them if they are new to the area or if they have a family member who has been deployed.
Show Your Gratitude in Writing
Operation Gratitude has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing individuals, groups, and businesses to volunteer virtually, such as by sending letters, birthday greetings or handmade items. Check out their website to register.
Adopt a Soldier
You can support a specific soldier through the Soldiers' Angels Deployed Adoptions Team. They help to ensure that no female or male soldier going overseas feels alone in their mission. Fill out the form on their website to participate. You will get matched with a soldier to whom you will send at least one letter per week and one care package per month. You can actually adopt and support three service members at one time.
Send Homemade Baked Goods
The Angels Bakers Team is a team of volunteers that sends monthly care packages to deployed service members. As an Angels Baker, you will send homemade baked goods, and you can also include store-bought items or healthy snacks in the package. Check out their website to sign up.
Place Flags at Gravesites
Placing flags near the gravesites of veterans on Memorial Day is a beautiful way to honor those who have died serving their country. You can find and contact a Veterans of Foreign Wars post near you or the Red Cross about this volunteer opportunity. Additional volunteer opportunities may be found with Blue Star Families.
Foster a Pet
You can help single military service members get care for their pets while they are deployed through Dogs on Deployment. Check out their website to sign up to provide a pet a safe and loving home while their parent is away.
Make or Collect Donations
There are various non-profit organizations to which you can donate that provide different forms of financial assistance to military members such as scholarships, assistance with utility bills, or grants for military members experiencing temporary financial hardships. You can also donate your excess Halloween candy to get shipped to troops. Below are additional ways in which you can provide financial donations to support causes that help military members and their families.
Donate for Financial Support
Operation Homefront works to support military families by helping them get their needs met. Whether it is for supporting a veteran who lost a job, providing funding for problems posed by COVID-19, or helping a veteran pay bills, you can check out causes to donate to on the needs section of their website. You can also donate to the Armed Services YMCA to provide help with childcare, and to aid in sending children of military families to camps and after-school programs. Other donation opportunities are available via Military Families United and the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society to help military families experiencing financial hardships due to deployments, family emergencies, or other challenges related to military life.
Donate for Wounded Warriors
Donations to The American Legion's Operation help provide wounded service members with comfort items and assistance. You can visit their webpage to make a donation. The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) also 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. Some of the services they include are home health services, stress management and resiliency training, and alternative therapies such as art, music, or equine therapy. You can donate via their online donation page.
Help Provide Scholarships
The relocations required when married to a soldier, combined with financial hardships, often make it hard for a spouse to complete college. The National Military Family Association (NMFA) helps military families by providing scholarships.
The NMFA also has a program called Operation Purple, which coordinates family retreats and camps for children in military families. You can help support these causes by donating to the NMFA.
Help With Housing
While a military veteran is receiving treatment at a medical center, the family needs lodging so they can be near their soldier. Fisher House Foundation provides housing options for these families at no charge. Every major military medical center and VA hospital in the United States has at least one Fisher House facility available; there are facilities in Europe as well. Fisher House Foundation also offers scholarships to military spouses and children.
Wounded soldiers may come back to civilian living requiring special adjustments to their homes, but they may not have the financial wherewithal to implement such changes. That is where Homes for Our Troops steps in and provides relief. The organization builds new homes for wounded soldiers. There are various ways that you can support their cause, such as giving donations or hosting a fundraiser.
Assist With Travel
In addition, Fisher House runs a program called the Hero Miles through which you can donate your frequent flyer miles, which in turn get used to fly family members to the bedside of their wounded soldier. Participating airlines include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, and United Airlines. The Hero Miles program webpage has links to these airlines that will get you to their respective air miles donation pages.
Similarly, Fisher House Foundation also accepts 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. Participating hotels include Best Western, Choice Hotels, Hilton, Marriott, and Wyndham; you can give your donations to serve these causes on their Hotels for Heros webpage.
Support Military Kids
Our Military Kids focuses on easing the stress children may feel as a result of a parent being away on deployment. The organization offers grants to pay for these kids to participate in camps, fine arts programs, sports, and tutoring. You can make a financial contribution online, or find other ways to support the organization such as by hosting a fundraiser.
Be Cautious About Scams
Many organizations may call you to ask for donations, and 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 and Charity Watch.
Support the Troops and Their Families
Soldiers as well as their partners and children make significant sacrifices to serve the country. Provide support in any way you can, to show soldiers and their families you care and appreciate their service.