If you know someone who served in the military, regardless of whether or not they served in a war, please show them your gratitude for their service. Whether you say it in person, over the phone, via text, a Tweet, or a Facebook post, your thanks matters - so don’t be afraid to get creative!
Simply take a few minutes to silently reflect on the millions of people (past, present, and future) who selflessly dedicate their lives to fight for us and our country. We often take a lot of things in our life for granted, including our freedom and rights as US citizens, which we wouldn’t have if it weren’t for our beloved veterans. Don’t forget to thank the families of these veterans and service members as well, as they sacrifice more than we could ever imagine.
One of the greatest feelings in the world is receiving an unexpected letter, especially one that conveys admiration, support, and gratitude. Many organizations send letters to soldiers, so this is an easy one to do! If you have kids, or are part of a school organization, get crafty and make a few cards for the holidays. Regardless of how you send your message, think of what you would like to hear if you were in their ‘boots’. Tell them a story, a joke, or send some pictures of your own latest adventure. They will love hearing your thanks for their service, but your message will mean so much more with a personal touch.
Many veterans returned from active duty, but not all of them returned in perfect health. A Million Thanks is an organization that helps raise funds to grant wishes to wounded veterans who otherwise can’t afford to make dreams come true for their families. Visit their page to see all the wishes and help them become reality. Know a veteran in need, but you don’t know how, nor have the budget to help with some of those bigger wishes? Try surprising them with a small, yet thoughtful gift like these Under Armour Captain Sunglasses.
Make an impact close-to-home by visiting veterans in a local retirement home. The amount of joy a short visit could bring is immeasurable. Just ask them to share some of their stories or bring them some baked goodness (homemade or store-bought - they never have to know!), and you’ll have made a new friend. Just think of all the people who don’t get many visits from family or friends, and how a simple 30-minute visit could instantly become the highlight of their week.
Who doesn’t enjoy a free lunch? Reconnect with a longtime friend or family member by inviting them for lunch or coffee. This one is so easy - you could do it on other days of the year too. If you happen to see someone eating alone the next time you go out, ask them if they would like some company; don’t be shy! Don’t have time for lunch? Try treating the veterans in your life to ice cream, or grab a drink (depending on their personal preferences, of course)! If you are really strapped for time, why not bring the coffee to them, with the help of this convenient, well-insulated Orca Chaser, and show your appreciation for their service by gifting the cup!
Now here's one we ALL can do. Stay involved and show your appreciation all year round by staying up-to-date on the latest news and activity of an organization close to your heart. Following military support groups, such as the Wounded Warrior Project and Operation Homefront on social media not only helps them stay top-of-mind, but also arms them with additional voices to share their stories and get others involved in supporting their cause.
Sending a care package is an extremely thoughtful gift to those currently serving our country. If you know a family who has a loved one at boot camp or overseas, ask them for an address to submit a care package through organizations like Operation Gratitude. You simply fill out the rank, name, address, email, relation, and expected date of return for the service member you are requesting a package for. If you already send packages to family or friends currently serving, why not send them this Under Armour Wounded Warrior Project hat, or these Compression OTC Run Socks -you can never have enough socks - in your next care package.
For those who cannot afford to donate time or monetary gifts, you can still acknowledge and show thanks to veterans in other ways. Performing a simple good deed is all it takes. And it is something you can do every day, as many times as you want. Hold the door for the person behind you, or rake the leaves for an elderly neighbor. People tend to be overwhelmingly grateful for such thoughtfulness.
Volunteering is the best way to connect with your community and feel good about yourself while doing it. A few hours is all it takes to make a difference. A lot of organizations host volunteer events and projects, many of which are involved in activities such as sending letters and running toy and clothing drives. Others are focused on giving back in a more local way, like The Mission Continues, which helps both veterans and civilians organize and work together on specific issues within their communities.
If time is an issue, take just one minute to visit one of the many military support organization websites and see what you could donate. Many accept monetary donations, but many others, including Operation Gratitude, accept much more, including your leftover Halloween candy! Many soldiers also appreciate gifts that many of us take for granted, such as books, movies, games, snacks, and hot sauce (seriously). Check out some of these other groups to learn more about them and what you can do to pitch in!
Memory Box Project: collects memories of fallen loved ones for their families
Operation: Care and Comfort: support troops, veterans, and their families
Semper Fi Fund: provide immediate financial assistance for post 9/11 wounded, critically ill, and injured members of US Armed Forces and their families
Woman Veterans Interactive: offer programs to assist women transition back to civilian life after serving our country
Find even more veteran and service member charities and projects at Charity Navigator. There is a project and organization out there for everyone, whether you are looking to do a single donation, or organize a group to volunteer.