“Support our troops!”

Have you seen this phrase?

Perhaps on a bumper sticker. Maybe on a billboard. Perhaps you’ve see a video clip on Facebook of a soldier coming home and it made you cry. Or maybe … you read a story of a soldier who did not make it home. And it made you cry.

I do that a lot – I cry.

But what are we actually doing to support our troops?

If you’re like me, not nearly enough.

So this week’s challenge is not just for you, but most especially for me. Because if I feel gratitude in my heart for the soldiers who are willing to fight and even die to defend my freedom, I need to take a moment to say thank you.

Thank a Soldier Challenge

(Most of my readers are, like me, from the United States of America. My post today will primarily be geared toward American soldiers, simply because this is what I am most familiar with. But I’d like to encourage you, if you live in another country, to think about what you might be able to do to support your country’s brave men and women who serve.)

So HOW do we do it? How can we support our troops? I have a few suggestions for you. I hope you find a way to serve that touches your heart. And if you have any suggestions for me, please share!

  1. Write a letter to a soldier who is currently deployed. I know it’s much easier sometimes to send a quick e-mail … but there’s just something about getting a letter in the mail! Grab a piece of paper and an envelope – you’ll be glad you did. Do you have any friends, family members, or community members who are deployed? Show your support! If you don’t, I’d encourage you to visit AnySoldier.com. (Update: one of my readers pointed out to me that AnySoldier.com has updated their policy, and now you are required to make a financial donation in order to request an address. It looks like you can make the donation any amount – even $1 – but I am still disappointed in this change. Sorry about that!) This website is basically a compilation of troops stationed overseas who would love a little bit of support from home. You can find a troop based on what branch of the service they’re in, where they’re from, how long they’ve been gone … look around and find a group that touches your heart, then grab a pen! They will make sure your letter gets to someone who could really use some encouragement.
  2. Send a care package. Okay, this one is might be little bit more intimidating. But it really doesn’t have to be! Did you know that it’s not any more expensive to ship a package to a soldier stationed overseas than it is to send a package in the US? As long as the address is an APO or FPO address, it ships for regular US postage. (In fact, many post offices carry special flat rate shipping boxes especially for the military, and they’re a little bit cheaper!) As far as what to send, just think of what you’d want to be if you were away from home! Snacks, toiletries, entertainment … If you’re sending a box to someone local, you can include a current newspaper. To someone who is stationed somewhere without great access to a shower, baby wipes are always a popular request. To someone with a microwave but no stove, microwaveable meals and treats are awesome. You can ask your soldier for ideas, or if you’re looking at AnySoldier.com, they will list the things they would be especially grateful to receive (and AnySoldier has a lot of helpful tips). But be assured that what you send doesn’t matter nearly as much as the thoughtfulness behind your package. Just showing that you care is priceless.
  3. Be kind anonymously. One of my dear friends has a husband who recently returned from deployment. I asked her what kind of support has been helpful for her husband, and I love what she shared: “I know we’re always touched by anonymous service! He always feels uncomfortable being directly thanked for his service, but behind-the-scenes kindness is our favorite. For example, someone picks up his tab when out to eat.”
  4. Support veterans. If you’re not sure where to start, just google “(Closest major city) veterans” and see what pops up. See if there are fundraisers you can support or places that you can volunteer at. If you know someone who has served, thank them for their sacrifice. Remember our last tip … you can make someone’s day by sending an anonymous thank-you card to a veteran.
  5. Help families stationed overseas by sending your expired coupons. Did you know that they can use coupons up to six months past their expiration date at the Commisary? They can – and for many families, that can be a huge blessing! If you’re a couponer, consider sending the coupons you don’t use to military families. You can really help them stretch their budgets, and all it takes is a few minutes, an envelope, and a stamp. And even if you’re not a coupon user, if you get the Sunday paper, consider sharing! If you’d like to “adopt” a family overseas to share coupons with, check this out. Or you can look into the Overseas Coupon Program – they provide addresses of participating military bases, and you send your coupons directly there. Remember, you can use regular US postage!

Those are a few ideas I was able to come up with. I hope you find something that works for you!

As I thought about how I’d be implementing this week’s challenge, I decided I wanted to get my kids involved. So a few days ago, I spoke to my 4-year-old son’s preschool teacher and asked if we might be able to get his class involved in this project. She kindly agreed, and we began discussion how we might do that. As we talked, the music teacher dropped by and heard us.

“Excuse me,” she asked. “Do you have a soldier in mind?”

I explained that I had planned on finding a soldier from our area on AnySoldier.com, but asked if she knew of anyone who could use the support.

Then she broke my heart.

“My son just got home – he was stationed at Fort Hood. But he has a buddy who has been there for a while, and he’s going to be there for a long time. He’s stationed there for 18 months. And he hasn’t gotten any mail from home. Not one letter.”

I AM NOT OKAY WITH THAT.

This young man is going to find out very soon that he has been adopted by a preschool class. He’s going to get letters and cards from them. And for the holidays, he’s going to get at least one care package. Because … Well, there is no because, really. Except for … Because there just really isn’t an option. When I have access to a paper, a pen, and a stamp, why should there be someone who never receives mail?

There shouldn’t be.

And I’m pretty sure you agree with me.

So let’s get to work.

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