When I married my husband, I married “The World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot” and I also inherited two step-daughters in the process. Then he said we could “join the military full time and see the world.” But what he really showed me was five more children in the first seven years of marriage, for a total of seven children to financially support. Then we took the show on the road and moved eleven times in thirteen years. I learned that I was going to have to look at life in a funny way or end up on the funny farm.
Today, I’m not sending a husband into harm’s way, but I’m sending sons as we have three sons serving in the Marines, Air Force and Army.
One of the critical ways I found help was through our community. When my husband was deployed, the local community helped me and now with a Marine son deployed, there are those who are helping him by sending care packages. Here are a few ways you can inform others on how to be a hero to our heroes and their families.
Operation: Courageous Character
When my husband, Bob, flew the F-117A fighter and was on long military deployments, he spent many days away from family and needed reminders of what he was fighting for overseas. You can help in this area by creating a Service Member’s “Wish Book” for the deployed military member or their family members. Be creative and put together these “wishes” (and some of your own):
- I Wish For You. . . the Courage to Laugh With Friends (a funny card, humor book or share a family anecdote)
- I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Redeem Beauty for Ashes (send something lovely created out of something unusual.)
- I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Choose Peace and Tranquility (include a instrumental music CD with a note as to why your family likes the music)
- I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Cherish Memories (a personalized family photo)
- I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Keep in Touch (pre-addressed cards to family and friends)
- I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Be Wise (a favorite self help book)
- I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Be Cool and Fresh (mints)
Operation: Compassionate Kids
It’s also important to encourage military kids. Consider approaching your child’s classroom teacher, Scout troop or after school club about the idea of sponsoring a different military member each month. In English, the children can write letters; in Art class, they can draw pictures; and in Scout Troop, they can put together care packages. Children can learn the value of caring in community with others and it can teach lessons in altruism by creating an “others” orientation that will last a lifetime. Be sure to get instructions for shipment before sending care packages so that all regulations are followed. Some of the care packages might include:
- Toiletry Pack – Sample size shaving cream, disposable razors, wet wipes, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss q-tips, shampoo, lotion, bug repellent, foot powder, & socks.
- Food Pack – Pre-sweetened drink mix, slim jims or jerky, granola bars, power bars, bag of candy (non-chocolate), gum, canned soup, canned fruit, fruit snacks, cool scar, nuts & trail mix.
- Smart Pack – Books of all kinds, crossword puzzles, stationary, stamps, phone cards, online gift certificates and fact books.
Help Others Help You
There are a number of organizations that can help you get in contact with ways to serve military members.
- TreatTheTroops.org – The “cookie lady” Jeanette Cram, can help you organize your own “cookie bakes” for the troops overseas. “We are always looking for ‘crumbs,’ or people who bake for us,” says Jeanette, “we have them all over the country.” Or, you can make a tax-deductible donation to help with postage. The have shipped almost 3 million cookies since 1990!
- OperationShowBox.com – Donate travel sized toiletries that you may not use from your hotel stays or business trips. They also pair up troops and teachers as a way of allowing school children to learn geography and reach out to volunteer troops overseas.
- OperationGratitude.com – This group has local assembly days where you and your family can arrive at a central location and help put together care packages.
- Heroes at Home — A non-profit that I run which provides financial education for military members and their families. All donations go through our Women of Purpose 501c3. For more information on how to donate, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is YOUR favorite way of helping our heroes?