Think of all of the ways to support our troops who give up so much to defend us. They fight, putting their lives on the line, to protect our country while spending enormous amounts of time away from their loved ones. They spend months or years away from everything that is familiar and dear to them. There are thousands of ways to support our troops and I really hope that you choose one from this list or come up with a creative idea of your own, and reach out to someone on active duty or a veteran to say “Thank You” for all that they do.
1 Care Packages
Care packages are one of the greatest ways to support our troops! You can make them as big or as small as you would like. You can buy all of the components or you can go around and ask local businesses and people throughout your community for donations of products or money to put towards the package. Our soldiers need so many things, from hygiene necessities, food and clothes to games, books and music. Check out give2thetroops.org for the most needed items and any regulations on certain products.
2 Pen Pal Programs
If you don’t have the funds to put together care packages or send store bought items, look into Military Pen Pal programs. There are far too many soldiers out there who have no family to communicate with. It must be incredibly lonely to be in a strange place with no ties to the community you come from. There are several websites that can help connect you with a soldier; my favorite is this one: anysoldier.com.
3 Military Discounts
My town has a program which all local businesses can take part in. It is a military discount program which offers a certain percentage off at stores registered with the program for past and present members of the military as well as their families. I think this is a great way small business owners can acknowledge the service our soldiers have provided for us.
4 Cemetery Flags
You can volunteer your time and place flags near the headstones of our fallen heroes. If you aren’t able to do that, then you and your friends or your kids can walk around your local cemetery and fix flags that have blown over after a storm or strong wind. My mom and I recently went to visit my Grandfather’s grave and upon seeing that his flag was broken, we fixed it and then spent nearly two hours walking around the cemetery setting all of the flags upright. It was nice spending the time together on a sunny day and doing something for all of the soldiers who had done so much for us.
5 Nursing Home Visits
Just as there are current military men and women with little or no family, there are a lot of them in nursing homes with no one to visit them. When I was in 4th grade, my mom pushed me to volunteer at the local nursing home. I’m so glad that she did! I met a Navy veteran whom my entire family eventually dubbed “Grandpa John.” He had no family, except a daughter who only visited once every other year or so. He had spent every holiday and birthday alone for years. I sat and read to him or spoke to him about his past for hours every weekend. He was full of stories and covered in tattoos he received while in the military. He loved having someone to talk to and pretty soon my whole family was getting involved. We took him home with us for his birthday and baked him a cake and gave him presents. When he passed away he had a picture of all of us from that day in his pocket. By that time we had spent a few Christmases, birthdays and other holidays with him. His stories would have been completely lost with no one to talk to and share them with. Go to your local nursing home and ask to volunteer to read, play chess or put together puzzles with a resident. You will see how much it means to them.
6 Adopt a Soldier Program
If you would like one soldier to send letters, birthday cards, holiday greetings and even gifts to, check out soldiersangels.org. You can connect with a soldier who doesn’t have anyone back home to communicate with on a regular basis. Everyone needs someone to talk to. You can be that person for someone! You can send them care packages, but you don’t have to. Something as simple as a letter to let them know that someone cares about them is enough.
7 Phone Cards
It can be costly for soldiers to call home to their parents, spouses and children. Overseas calls cost far too much and can be a burden on either the soldiers or their families. A great way to help far away military men and women connect with their families is to send a few phone cards their way. They appreciate it greatly and it is one of the most asked for items!
I feel that a lot of people, especially those my age, tend to take our military personnel for granted. Everyone should be doing all that we can for those who have done so much for us. Show your appreciation throughout the year by incorporating these ways to support the troops into your everyday life. To all of you who fight for us: Thank you! What sort of things do you do to support our troops?