How to Support the Troops
I get tons of email about how Americans can write to our servicemembers or otherwise show their support.
Unfortunately, in October of 2001, the Anthrax-infected letter threat resulted in the termination of two programs which have been used to increase the morale of deployed servicemembers for more than 17 years.
Because of the potential danger to our military servicemembers, at that time, the Military Postal Service Agency suspended two popular mail programs geared for servicemembers stationed overseas: The "Dear Any Servicemember" mail program and the "Operation Dear Abby" servicemember mail program.
Operation Dear Abby used to operate to support the troops during the holiday season from Nov. 15 to Jan. 15, while the Any Servicemember mail program operated year round.
The Department of Defense has officially asked the American Public not to send unsolicited mail, care packages or donations to service members forward deployed unless you are a family member, loved one or personal friend. This includes a plea not to use any of the services provided by well-intentioned individuals and organizations which result in postal mail being sent to any military servicemember, if you do not personally know that servicemember.
Official statement from the Military Postal Service Agency: There are many well meaning Web sites, TV stations, and charity groups that are promoting donations to overseas Servicemembers. While well intentioned, you should not use them and you should discourage others from using them. These unsolicited letters of support or care packages to Servicemembers raise a force protection issue, since anonymous donors are different from legitimate family members and friends. DoD has cancelled mail programs which encouraged the American public in general to mail to Any Servicemember (versus a specific deployed person). These new programs attempt to do the same thing by gathering names of Servicemembers to send mail. While legitimate mail from family members and loved ones is always encouraged, these donor programs, which collect and pass out Servicemembers’ names and addresses, is discouraged.
NOTE: As an exception to the above policy, the Department of Defense has approved several organizations for servicemember mail and care package programs through their America Supports You Web site.
In addition to the America Supports You official site, here are some other ways you can show your support to U.S. Military service members:
Operation USO Care Package. You can buy a "care package," which will be delivered to a deployed servicemember with a personal note from you. These care packages are purchased and delivered by the USO (United Service Organization) with permission and support from the Department of Defense.
Send a PX/BX Gift Certificate to a wounded servicemember. Anyone can purchase a gift certificate from the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), and ask that it be donated to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. This is the medical facility where all servicemembers wounded in the Gulf or Afghanistan are treated before they are transported back to the states. The certificates donated will be redeemed for toiletries, sweats, undergarments, socks, pre-paid calling cards and other items of convenience or necessity for our wounded heros.
Donate a Calling Card through Operation Uplink. Operation Uplink is a unique program that keeps military personnel and hospitalized veterans in touch with their families and loved ones by providing them with a free phone card. Using contributions from supporters like you, Operation Uplink purchases phone cards and distributes them to servicemen and women who are separated from those they care about.
Give Blood through the American Red Cross.
Volunteer to be a "Foster Parent" for the pet of a deployed servicemember through the Military Pets Foster Project or Operation Noble Foster.
In addition to the above methods of showing your support, there are several organizations which accept monetary donations in order to provide financial and other assistance to needy servicemembers:
- The American Red Cross provides emergency financial assistance and assists servicemembers with emergency leave.
- The USO provides morale, welfare, and recreation-type services to uniformed military personnel.
- The Army Emergency Relief provides emergency financial assistance to members of the United States Army.
- The Air Force Aid Society provides emergency financial assistance to members of the United States Air Force.
- The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society provides emergency financial assistance to members of the United States Navy and the Marine Corps.
- The National Military Family Association is the only national organization dedicated to identifying and resolving issues of concern to military families.
- The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Inc. (TAPS ) is a national non-profit organization made up of, and providing services to, all those who have lost a loved one while serving in the Armed Forces.
- Fisher House is a private nonprofit organization, that supports America's military in their time of need. Because members of the military and their families are stationed worldwide and must often travel great distances for specialized medical care, Fisher House Foundation donates "comfort homes," built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times - during the hospitalization for an unexpected illness, disease, or injury.
Other Ways to Support
Another way to show support is by doing a good deed on behalf of servicemembers. Visit or volunteer at a VA hospital or nursing home. You can also volunteer in the local community to help make up for servicemembers who normally would volunteer but are now deployed or otherwise too busy with their duties. Many servicemembers volunteer to coach children's teams, feed the homeless, and aid their communities in a variety of other ways. Interested Americans can show their support and honor their military by volunteering in their local communities.