This Memorial Day, Help a Soldier

Happy Memorial Day! As the unofficial start of summer, we hope your celebration includes some or all of the following: family, friends, sunshine, beach, BBQ, and – perhaps – dancing the Macarena in front of way too many people. (Been there, danced that.)

Of course, we all know that Memorial Day is about much more than fun. It’s about us Americans spending time together and reflecting on what makes this country great: Freedom. It’s a time to honor fallen soldiers and to give thanks to everybody who protects and defends our way of life. In fact, they deserve more than just our thanks.

So this Memorial Day weekend, we’d like to offer a few ideas on how we can go above and beyond to help current soldiers, veterans, and military families.

•    Serve.Gov, which is managed by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency charged with promoting and fostering volunteering and national service in America, has a great list called 10 Ways to Support and Honor Veterans. Some ideas we especially like include visiting a wounded veteran at the hospital, delivering a meal or care package, and helping a veteran or current soldier tell their story through a project such as the Veteran's History Project. We also love the idea of offering your home repair skills to a veteran or military family. After all, Shop-Vac ® owners tend to be especially handy.

•    According to Military.com’s article How to Support Our Troops Through Giving, there are more than 400,000 military charities. How do you choose the right one for you? The article recommends giving directly to organizations like Army Emergency Relief, Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society, or affiliates of the Air Force Assistance Funds. “These organizations provide service members and their families with financial, educational, and other need-based assistance and play a vital role in the lives of many members of our community,” the article says.

•    Soldiers’ Angels (soldiersangels.org) is an organization that “provides aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, their families, and a growing veteran population.” According to their website, the organization has helped more than 362,000 service members, veterans, and family members in 2016 alone. You can donate or become a volunteer. If you choose to volunteer, here’s a specific list of opportunities.

•    CNN’s article 9 simple ways you can help veterans is full of great ideas, from donating frequent flier miles to sponsoring a companion dog for veterans with PTSD. You can also help keep veterans off the street by helping The Department of Veterans Affairs' Stand Down program, a program designed to help homeless veterans "combat" life on the streets. “Stand Downs are usually one- to three-day events to provide food, shelter, clothing and health screenings to homeless and unemployed veterans. To find a Stand Down program in your community, contact your local VA hospital in the VA Medical Center Directory.”

So while we’re enjoying our holiday weekend, let’s take a moment to give thanks, take action, and help those who help us stay free.