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10 Ways to Support Our Military
One of my pet peeves is when I hear people thanking a veteran or active duty member. This usually happens in airports when men and women in uniform are moving through the country. Sometimes it happens when two people are chatting and one finds out the other is a service member or a vet.
“Thank you for your service,” they’ll say.
I understand what people are trying to do. Maybe some of them truly are grateful because they have the firsthand experience of having served and understand the hardship and sacrifices involved.
But to my ears, it sounds trite and insincere. It reminds me of the time immediately after 9/11. The Patriot Act had been passed and everyone was sporting flag lapel pins and slapping magnetic yellow “Support Our Troops” ribbons on their cars. Politicians were trying to outdo each other to prove who was the more patriotic, although few of them had ever served themselves or had children serving.
The fervor has abated over these many years we’ve been fighting the War on Terror. Politicians still wear the requisite red-white-and-blue lapel pin but veterans and their needs are forgotten until a scandal like the Walter Reed neglect or Veterans Affairs delayed patient care comes to light.
We ask a lot of our military and their families. With Veterans Day coming up, here are 10 ways you can show a vet or active duty member your gratitude that goes beyond buying a service member a meal or giving up a first class seat.
Here's How You Can Support Our Military
1. Write your member of Congress and tell them you want services to veterans and wounded warriors protected, especially for those experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury or other injuries.
2. Donate your time to the USO. Many airports have a USO Center where military members can relax between flights, take a nap, place a call or play a video game. If you can't donate your time, make a monetary donation to help keep Centers well-stocked.
3. Collect lap blankets, coats and toiletries. I know one woman who makes lap quilts for several months to donate to veterans in nursing homes and hospitals. Another group collects clothing for veterans who are homeless or going through rehabilitation.
4. Buy Yoga for Warriors. Through December 31, 2014, for every copy of Yoga For Warriors purchased through the Give Back Yoga Foundation, the organization will gift a free matching copy to a veteran or active duty service member. The book, written by Beryl Bender Birch, provides tools for warriors adapting to a peaceful life at home.
5. Send a care package to a service member or military unit. Find a unit or platoon through organizations such as anysoldier.com, operationgratitude.com or adoptaplatoon.org. Or just Google “military care packages.” And think beyond the traditional winter holidays.
6. Donate to one of the many organizations designed to support troops, from active duty personnel to wounded warriors to families of the fallen. Find one at http://www.military.com/spouse/military-life/military-resources/how-to-support-our-troops.html?comp=7000022934837&rank=1. Or try http://www.ourmilitary.mil/resources/community-support-for-our-military.
8. Hire a veteran. Transitioning to civilian life isn't easy and an MOS (military occupational specialty) doesn’t always translate to civilian job skills. But leadership, honor, integrity and a good work ethic - learned in the military - are invaluable in any workplace.
9. Support a military member’s family. Not every military family lives near a base with support services, especially if the service member is part of a National Guard unit. Offer respite childcare so the military spouse can take a break, invite the family to share a holiday or help with a repair around the house.
10. Befriend a military child, especially if you have a child their age. When dad (or mom) is away, you can fill a void in their life while providing friendship to the stay-at-home spouse.
I realize not everyone can or wants to serve in the military; at the same time, there are many who are eager to join, for any number of reasons. Still, we can be a “grateful nation” and show our true colors when we go beyond a simple handshake and verbal thanks.