|When asked, most every American professes to be “patriotic.” Unless you have a close family member or a friend currently serving through active military service, the daily cost of freedom is probably not really personal. But what does being patriotic really mean? The words themselves require no real personal sacrifice. The question becomes “What can the average American do to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk?” Actually, there's plenty. Here's my short list.|
Pray every day for our troops and their safe return. Pray for their families. Pray they will soon have an opportunity to welcome their loved ones safely back home. Pray for peace.
Adopt a soldier and send them written words of encouragement. Let them know you appreciate their service to our country. Tell them how much you value the personal sacrifices they have made on your behalf. Make it personal. Consider sending them stamps and stationary items they can use to communicate back with their families and loved ones. Can't bring yourself to send a card or a letter? You could start by simply posting a message online for our troops to read. An organization called Homefront Hugs created an electronic guest book that allows you to post general messages on-line. How easy is that? This is a great example of what individuals can accomplish in support of our military. When Alessandra Kellerman founded this organization, she solicited others to join her in her efforts to make it all work. The sum is always greater than the parts.
Send A Care Package
If you want to consider sending a care package, there are a number of organizations that can guide you. You must exercise caution when selecting items to include in your care packages. Make sure to read up on and follow the guidelines. (Many cargo planes that transport packages are not pressurized and therefore aerosol or flammable items are not permitted.) A comprehensive list of suggested items can be found at the Soldiers' Angels Web site. This is also a good resource for finding soldiers who want to be “adopted.” At last count, they had 2,275 soldiers on their waiting list. Another great resource on the Web is “Adopt a US Soldier” founded by Ann Johnson. Her site offers many excellent tips and suggestions. She recommends that when completing the declaration form (available at your local post office), you should choose the “redirect option” which allows the post office to redirect your package to the soldier's unit in the event they cannot deliver directly to your adopted soldier. Otherwise, your package would be returned to you. Ann's volunteers do an amazing job of providing relevant information to make your adoption experience meaningful.
You can find over 300 non-profit groups through the Community Relation's section of the Department of Defense Web site. This site is also dedicated to providing assistance to military members and their families, but is administered by the government. They do not accept direct donations, but serve to ensure the organizations you choose are legitimate and serve your intended objectives. If you visit the site map section of the site, you can find many ways to help support our troops. Aside from money, consider donating frequent flier miles, phone cards and gift certificates. Hint: Phone cards are a coveted item by our wounded soldiers. Remember, every little bit helps and you can make a difference.
Your American Red Cross also provides tremendous support for military members and their families. They are not a government agency even though many people perceive them as such. Half of our nation's blood needs are handled through the American Red Cross. They are also responsible for meeting the blood needs of America's fighting forces through its Armed Services Blood Program (ASPB). Consider a blood donation – it costs you nothing, and your donation could actually save someone's life. Consider organizing a blood drive at your business. That's powerful.
Give a little of your time. Find a worthwhile cause you support and then volunteer. The Web can be a good resource, but you should think local. You won't have to look very far to find a local group or organization that needs your help. A good place to start is Serve.gov, which enables you to just plug in your zip code to find service opportunities in your own back yard. If you're not sure what or how you can contribute...just ask!
Pass It Along
Last but not least, consider sharing this information with a friend along with an invitation to join you. There is tremendous power in numbers, so encourage others to participate with you. Not only will it make you both feel good, but you might find you're actually having fun in the process. Activism is a wonderful way to meet people and build new relationships.
As a nation, we can accomplish great things by collectively channeling our resources and abilities. Personally, I think that's pretty patriotic.