Whenever a new survey of veterans comes out, someone is always surprised to note how the costs of recent wars have been borne by the few. The 2.6 million Americans who served. The 51,000 who were injured. The 6800 who sacrificed their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But I was surprised when the most recent Washingon Post /Kaiser Family Foundation Poll also reported that the “universe of people” affected by that service is also very small.
We wives and husbands and children and parents and siblings occupy a universe that is more intensely affected than our civilian counterparts, not only because of the service members in our own families, but because we are likely simply to know other service members and their families.
Although we might be blind to our own sacrifices, each of us sees military families all over our community that we appreciate greatly.
- The young mom home with three tiny kids while her husband deploys for nine months.
- The stepdad who juggles custody of his own kids and his sailor’s kids while she is at sea.
- The family of an Army Ranger or Navy SEAL who seem to have him home for an instant before he is gone again.
- The PCSing parent of a special needs child fighting for the most appropriate schooling.
- The parents of a family of soldiers or Marines or National Guardsmen.
- Gold Star Families who keep moving forward because there is nowhere else to go.
We know them so we appreciate them. But what can we do for them?
How To Appreciate Military Families
So often we at SpouseBuzz are asked what our civilian neighbors and military friends can do for military families. Here is a short list to spark your imagination:
Babysitting and carpooling.
I would much rather give someone a gift that they want rather than something I want them to have. So instead of sending a note or a gift when friends go through a deployment, I offer babysitting (even when the last thing I have time to do is babysit.) Military spouses with kids tell our SpouseBuzz team that what they really need is babysitting and a little help getting kids to faraway sports. Hosting the sleepover for a group of friends also counts.
Think Sunday nights.
Most invitations to deployed families occur during holidays. What are you doing for Easter/Mother’s Day/July 4th? But those holidays can be times when the last thing you really want to do is hang with other people’s families. The treasured invitation is for a Sunday night. Ask a family to dinner at your house. Invite them over for popcorn and video games. Call and confess that you made a German Chocolate cake that is so amazing that your friend has gotta come over to try it. Sundays are long and lonely during deployment. It’s nice to have something to look forward to.
Include the new kid.
The older military kids get, the harder it is to make friends. If you notice a new kid in your child’s class, make an effort to include them in events. The kid doesn’t need a pity party, he probably just needs someone to cut him a little slack in the social world.
Care packages rock.
If you know a service member who is currently overseas or away from home for bootcamp or a long training, a care package is always welcome. One way to send baked goods that works surprisingly well is our Cake in a Jar project. You bake the cake in individual Mason jars and send canned icing. Find the instructions here: How to Make Military Care Package Cake in a Jar | SpouseBuzz.com Our readers tell us that this works really well with zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, and ginger bread, too.
Give the USO a little volunteer love.
If you don't personally know a service member, contact your local branch of the USO. They are a great community resource for all of us who care about military families. They often have care package events for overseas troops--and they know how to get packages overseas seamlessly.
Create some distance employees.
One of the newest ways we hear about people helping military spouses is to let them keep their jobs when they move. Because of improvements in technology, we are hearing about hardworking engineers, lawyers, marketers and even architects whose employers hold onto them wherever their service member is transferred. Once these spouses have proved their work capabilities, it is easier for the company to keep them. Solid spouse employment is a key to stronger marital satisfaction in the military.
Check military charities before you send a check.
There are more than 47,000 nonprofits registered with the IRS that have the word "military" in their mission statement. Not all of these are good. We strongly recommend that before you donate to a military charity that you take 30 seconds to run the name of the charity through Charity Navigator (find out more here: How to Avoid Military Charity Scammers | SpouseBUZZ.com) They keep a running list of organizations that really do help the troops and their families, wounded warriors and veterans of all wars.
Use your American life wisely.
Our service members are willing to sacrifice everything for their families and their fellow citizens. Show them you appreciate it by hanging a flag outside of your house and taking a family picture. Post it on Facebook with your own message of thanks. Then email a copy to the veterans you know thanking them for their service and your freedom. Then go be all you can be, too.