By Latayne C. Scott
Americans want to do something to show their appreciation for the military.
choose to work with one of more than 400,000 organizations that support the
military because a group effort often maximizes the help of individuals,
through donated materials and other bulk resources. For instance, you probably
can’t personally construct a smart home for a disabled servicemember like the Gary
could you grow a beard? Run a race? Set up a lemonade stand for a “real Lt.
Dan”? Sinise says they’ll take it.
some other ways you can volunteer to benefit servicemembers, veterans, and
Use your unique talents and
you good at filling out tax returns? Can you set up a simple website? Can you
offer college or career counseling or mentoring? Do you have a small business?
If you’ve answered yes, then check out the Thank
A Vet Network,
which is a national registry that connects you to eligible injured veterans and
military families in need of these services.
Collect things: Soldiers’
Angels can show
you how to set up a drive to collect used electronic devices, cellphones and
accessories, laptops, and other items. Into recycling? You can collect printer
and toner cartridges to benefit Soldiers’ Angels, too.
Un-collect things: Operation
Gratitude has a
program to distribute Beanie Babies to service people. Really.
Militarize your hobbies: Do you quilt? Organizations like
of Valor want
you. Knit or crochet? Children of Fallen Patriots
Foundation or Operation
sign you up. Bake cookies or cakes? Operation
We Are Here and Angel Bakers Team can tell you how to package and ship them to
Get the teenagers and kids
Through Operation Gratitude, teenagers and kids can learn how to create “cool-ties” or even paracord survival bracelets for deployed military personnel
— and get community service certification for their efforts. They can discover
the frillier side of helping with Operation Top Knot and Operation
Shower, both of
which provide virtual and on-site baby showers for military families, and Brides
which gives volunteers ways to help provide wedding dresses and accessories for
Send care packages — hundreds of thousands of them: Operation Gratitude, Operation We Are Here, The Hugs Project, Operation
local chapters of Blue Star Mothers, and many other organizations
need help packing snacks, hygiene items, magazines, and other items to mail to
deployed military personnel.
The personal touch: You can serve as a greeter at an
airport or as a listening friend at a veterans’ retirement home. Write “a
letter from home” to servicememembers from you personally or from hundreds who
will sign them at tables you can set up in shopping centers and malls as
suggested by the National Remember Our Troops Campaign. An inexpensive and modern
option is personalized email, accompanied by a “Cup of joe for a Joe” code through Green Beans
appreciated that almost more than 15 or so cards from people I didn’t even
know,” says Maj. Carla Gleason, USAF, of treasured correspondence sent to her
by Blue Star Moms during her recent deployment overseas. “The [military]
recipient gets a glimpse into the lives of the individuals he or she is serving
for,” Gleason says. “Sometimes it’s inspiring to remember that. People who
write personal letters of thanks helped me remember why I chose to leave my
family for a time and serve my country.”
Find local opportunities: Locally, veterans’ medical
facilities look for volunteers to drive people to appointments and provide
other needed help. For other opportunities, contact your neighborhood United
Way, United Service Organizations, Disabled American Veterans, Blue Star
Mothers chapters, any VFW Post, or MOAA chapter. Many of the other organizations
mentioned above have local offices as well.
about others who might ask for your time and money to benefit military causes?
Read “Be Smart About Charitable Giving” and “Your Guide to Charity Evaluation
information and resources that will help you choose and give to a charity with