May is National Military Appreciation Month, and today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day are also coming up. The U.S. is feeling more patriotic and supportive of our troops following bin Laden's death last week, but our soldiers serve us every day. Now is a great time to support our troops.
If you're looking to thank our troops for their sacrifice, consider these 10 simple ways (most of these are 501(c)3-status organizations):
- Donate to the USO. The United Service Organizations has been lifting the spirits of service personnel since 1941, providing welfare, services, and fun activities for troops and their families (like live concerts for deployed soldiers). USO Treehouse specifically supports programs for the kids in military families, such as free Sesame Street Live performances -- fun!
- Adopt a soldier. You can connect with one soldier to keep in touch with and send care packages and letters to through programs like Soldiers' Angels. You can also support funding for Soldiers' Angels by purchasing an American flag through Flag Outpost.
- Sponsor a soldier's care package or donate care package contents. SKIP, Special Kindness In Packages, sends care packages to deployed soldiers. They provide a great list of care package content ideas and they also accept donations of care package items.
- Donate a cell phone or other technology. Cell Phones for Soldiers accepts used cell phone donations, and Soldiers' Angels and SKIP also accept donated cell phones and iPods, other mp3 players, and digital cameras.
- Donate calling cards or gift cards. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service shop makes it simple for you to buy gift cards (starting at $10) and calling cards (starting at $20) to be shipped directly to a service person in need.
- Send a thank-you note or homemade craft. SKIP says that cards and letters from back home are the most important donation to our troops. This is a great opportunity to help your child learn to write a letter or make one of these cute patriotic crafts for a deployed soldier to decorate his space. SKIP's mailing address for donations is: Special Kindness In Packages, Inc., P.O. Box 276, East Bridgewater, MA 02333. If you're VERY crafty, Citizen SAM outlines ways you can knit and quilt for our troops.
- Donate your wedding gown. Brides Across America accepts clean and gently used wedding gowns and veils/bridal accessories to give to military brides. They ask that gowns be under three years old. Sorry -- no poufy sleeves!
- Sponsor a baby shower. That's right! You can help fund a shower for expectant moms in military families through Operation Shower.
- Donate your photography services. If you're a professional photographer, you can join the ranks of Yellow Ribbon Photography and help military couples or families in your area by snapping complimentary shots of them for the soldier to cherish when overseas.
- Support survivors of a fallen soldier. Following the death of a military loved one, TAPS -- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors -- provides bereavement support 24/7.
If you know of other great causes or ways to thank our troops, please add a comment. Thank you!
We have one family member, Andy, serving in Afghanistan right now. We think of him today and every day.