Friday, November 11, 2011

Taking action on Veterans Day

Many organizations and companies have been supporting veterans for years. On an individual level, we as Americans also have a variety of options to offer support. Whether the help comes from a monetary donation or from a hand-written Christmas card, it is deeply appreciated.

Some restaurants have started to offer free meals to veterans and current service members on Veterans Day. Applebee’s is showing their appreciation with a complimentary meal and UNO Chicago Grill is hosting a buy-one-get-one-free entree deal for the vets and troops. UNO is also conducting one of their well-known “Dough Raiser” fundraising campaigns with the Bob Woodruff Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes support for any and all veterans, troops, and their families (ReMIND.org). Not only will 20% of total sales from November 12-25 be donated to this cause, but UNO will also donate 20% of your total check if you print out and bring a voucher to dinner (unos.com/veterans).

The Department of Veterans Affairs says that about 30% of the homeless adults in America have served in the military. Thinking about food outside the restaurant, there are many food drives and local programs to help feed homeless people that operate not only on Veterans Day, but every day. 

Donations are obviously the main source of support for any charitable organization, and Veterans Hospitals across the country are always in need of items as well as volunteers. Comfort kits can be composed of toiletries such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, and shaving cream. Gift cards to grocery stores and gas stations are also recommended donations. For mothers and children, blankets, rattles or small toys, and lotion are needed. Homeless veterans are in need of socks, shirts, and coats, as well as other clothes. And remember, all donations are tax-deductible.

Many churches and organizations offer personal support on an emotional level for active service members. With the holiday season approaching, Christmas cards are made and sent to troops overseas. While this seems like a small gesture, the impact can be monumental. A new program, Holiday Mail for Heroes, collects cards to send to military, their families, and veterans. You can purchase or even create your own card to warm someone’s heart this holiday season. (redcross.org/holidaymail)







Iconic symbols such as the red poppy flower or the yellow ribbon are seemingly small yet meaningful ways to show your support for the troops. The yellow bumper stickers are available for a suggested donation of $1, and the poppies are free. Donations are always encouraged for these items, and it’s a small “price” compared to what the veterans have done for us.

Microsoft and Walmart both have programs offering training and career support for returning service men and women. The transition from military into civilian life is a difficult process, and programs are being implemented to promote higher education and career opportunities. 

There are countless charitable organizations that send care packages, letters, cards, and gifts to active members of the military. There is even an organization called Operation Air Conditioner that accepts donations to help pay for air conditioners for troops. You can donate books, music, and movies to the troops as well. When searching for an organization to send these items to, you might come across Operation Give, which collects toys for the children of Iraq. This is an interesting organization that takes in toys and small gifts, sends them to the military, and those service men and women are able to give them out to the mothers and children they come in contact with in Iraq. Operation Give runs a number of campaigns for various things such as dental hygiene, back to school supplies, and medical supplies. (operationgive.org)

Any Soldier is an effort entirely based on voluntary support of the individual. If you go to the website (anysoldier.com) you are able to read through recent emails that have been sent by overseas military members from each service branch. The soldiers usually write a bit about themselves as well as a list of items they would like to receive. You can obtain their address after reading the terms and conditions, and send a package.

If you can’t afford to send a package overseas, there are ways to send emails and post messages on the internet for troops to be encouraged by. If you google search “ways to support our troops”, there are countless links and lists of organizations that will either collect your letters and cards, or even match you up with a service member. Don’t forget; some of the men and women don’t have family and friends to receive letters from. Even one letter or card of thanks or encouragement could give a soldier the morale and support they might desperately need.

Instead of being one day out of the year that we set aside to honor military members, Veterans Day should be a reminder of all of these great things we can do for our troops and veterans daily. It shouldn’t take a special holiday for us to realize that they are still fighting for us on the other 364 days of the year, just as they have been for decades.

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