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Homefront Help Archive

SIGNAL Staff

Homefront Help is SIGNAL Connections’ effort to support U.S. service members, veterans and their families. The column highlights programs that offer resources and assistance to the military community ranging from care packages to benefits and everything in between.

In that same spirit, Homefront Help presents opportunities for readers to donate time, offer resources and send words of thanks to those who sacrifice for freedom. Programs that provide services to the troops are listed in red. Opportunities for the public to reach out to service members are listed in blue. Each program description includes a link to the organization's Web site, when available.

August 2009 
Operation Bacon Salt
As this column has shown—and said—many times before, there is no limit to how people with a passion can support the troops. The gentlemen behind Operation Bacon Salt have a passion for, well, bacon, and conceived the idea for the outreach program when a U.S. Marine corporal e-mailed them detailing a horrible condition they felt no person should have to endure: life without bacon. Since the initial shipment to that group of Marines in Iraq, Operation Bacon Salt has sent its goods to other service members in places where fresh bacon is hard to come by such as Iraq, Afghanistan, aircraft carriers and Apache helicopters because everything really is better with bacon.

Bacon Salt is a meat-free seasoning that is designed to impart bacon flavor to any food item. It comes in several varieties and because it is a dry mix does not require special storage conditions. While the Bacon Salt organization currently lacks the resources to send its product to all troops stationed overseas, it plans to sponsor one group of soldiers a month until they all come home. Anyone interested in receiving or sponsoring a shipment can send an e-mail to supportthetroops@baconsalt.com. People stationed overseas who have military addresses or those sending the packages overseas to military addresses can use the coupon code “baconsaltfortroops” to get a 50 percent discount of anything purchased from the company.

The Web site includes the e-mail that started it all as well as the thank you after the Bacon Salt arrived. Also posted are links to the story of the company’s conception and to items for purchase, but the real treasures on the site are the photos of troops enjoying their bacon-flavored goodness. After all, according to the people behind Operation Bacon Salt, “We thought we’d put up this Web site as a reminder that there are people out there who are putting their lives on the line far away from home who could use your support.”

Warmth For Warriors
This outreach effort also aims at providing the comforts of home by sending troops and veterans warm wool hats and other items made with love. The headwear provides physical comfort and a "hug of thanks." Volunteers knit and crochet hats and send them to medical units where ill and wounded military members prepare to leave for hospitals in Germany or the United States. As of July 1, 2009, the nonprofit had sent 3,569 fuzzy head coverings to those sacrificing for freedom.

As an all-volunteer organization, Warmth for Warriors always is appreciative of monetary donations or completed hats. The Web site includes a file to download with instructions for easy hats as well as recommendations for the types of wool to use. Contact information, including a mailing address for completed caps or funds, also is posted online.

G.I. Bill Transfers Authorized
As of August 1, 2009, military members enrolled in the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill program can transfer unused educational benefits to their spouses or children. The Defense Department released guidance on June 23, 2009, establishing the criteria for eligibility and transfer of the benefits. Information about the criteria, transferability, how to apply and more is available on the G.I. Bill Web site. Other information and resources can be found at the Defense Department site.

July 2009
Operation Send-Off
You say goodbye or you say hello. Or both. Operation Send-Off is dedicated to ensuring that troops leaving for or returning from deployment have the proper send-off and an honorable welcome home. It currently operates at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport with plans to expand to Hartsfield-JacksonInternationalAirport. The idea was conceived to exhibit appreciation and support to offset the presence of protesters. The nonprofit group also sends care packages to warfighters overseas and is developing a mobile canteen to visit military bases throughout the world. As part of its efforts, the organization supports and comforts military family members as well.

Volunteers are critical for the success of Operation Send-Off’s efforts, and help is needed in several areas such as package preparation, fundraising, administrative duties, general nonprofit support and, of course, seeing troops off and cheering their return. Donations also are greatly appreciated since the organization has very limited funds. Stephen Butler, the media relations contact for the organization, who also served in the Marine Corps and is an active volunteer, says the money the organization receives is spent quickly to buy drinks and other items for the troops once they pass through security. Butler brings his seeing-eye dog Sgt. Maj. Blaze with him to his airport visits and has found that the pooch draws attention from even the shyest soldiers, who then talk about their canines. Blaze also serves as a comfort to children who have said goodbye to a parent. Children can e-mail Blaze at blaze@operationsendoff.org and will receive a response.

Anyone interested in volunteering can request more information by e-mailing volunteers@operationsendoff.org. Those interested in scheduling a group to go to the Dallas airport should e-mail operations@operationsendoff.org. People in other locations who want to support similar activities can e-mail Butler at Stephen.Butler@operationsendoff.org. Additional contact information and resources are available online, including links to other military support groups and photographs.

Wounded Soldiers Wish Foundation
This fledgling organization falls under the established A Million Thanks program, taking the idea of showing gratitude to troops to a new level. The purpose of Wounded Soldiers Wish is to grant the wishes of warfighters injured in the Global War on Terrorism, similar to how the Make A Wish children’s charity functions. Troops hurt in battle are suffering from a variety of wounds, including lost sight, limbs and hearing, and Wounded Soldiers Wish wants to provide them what they need through donations from those who want to thank them for their service.

The foundation is in the final stages, with a Web site under construction, but already it has received wishes from wounded troops who heard about the project. Unfortunately, the organization currently lacks the funds to meet these requests, so the group is asking those who would like to fulfill immediate needs to donate money or to consider coordinating future fundraising events. Anyone interested in the latter should e-mail aMillionThanks@aol.com. A link for donations is available on the A Million Thanks Web site.

Real Warriors Campaign
The Real Warriors Campaign combats the stigma associated with psychological health care and treatment. By increasing awareness and use of resources, the group is encouraging troops to obtain the services they need. The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury launched the Real Warriors Campaign to promote the process of building resilience, facilitating recovery, and supporting reintegration of returning service members, veterans and their families into everyday life.

To spread the word about the importance and availability of mental health services, the campaign performs outreach using print materials, the media, an interactive Web site, social media and partnerships. Real Warriors features stories about actual troops who have sought treatment and continue to maintain successful military and civilian careers. In addition, the DCoE created a 24/7 OutreachCenter staffed by health resources consultants who offer confidential information about psychological health and traumatic brain injury. The center can be reached at (866) 966-1020 or at resources@dcoeoutreach.org.

A live chat option is available on the Web site as is the number for the suicide prevention hotline. Additional Web site options include a list of partners, a sign-up for e-mail updates as well as detailed lists of resources for active duty, Guard and Reserve, families, veterans and health care providers.

June 2009
Military Family Support Centers Incorporated
Military families requiring just about any kind of help—from supplies to camaraderie—can find what they need here. Military Family Support Centers (MFSC) Incorporated, located in Salem, Virginia, is dedicated to identifying and meeting the needs of the families of deployed military members. The organization seeks to reduce the stress for troops and their families by providing ways for the community to express its gratitude through offering services, volunteering or making donations. MFSC offers an array of support including an information clearinghouse for military and civilian programs and benefits; telecommunications support such as videoconferencing, free long-distance and broadband Internet access; social interaction through support group organization assistance and a casual meeting place staffed by caring volunteers; home/car repair assistance offering reduced and no-cost repairs by qualified volunteers; a playroom for children to use while parents handle other issues; collaboration with local charities that provide food and clothing; transportation assistance; counseling; a limited amount of in-house baby supplies and canned goods; and TRICARE insurance assistance.

The organization seeks volunteers to assist with its outreach efforts, and it solicits donations as well as sells items to raise money. More information and necessary forms are available on the Web site. Also available online is news about upcoming events, a newsletter, support links and contact information, including directions to the office. Anyone who needs assistance or knows of a military family who could benefit through MFSC’s help is encouraged to contact the organization by phone or e-mail or can drop by. The center has operating hours listed, but appointments can be made for other times as well. 

Operation: Take a Soldier to the Movies
No, this isn’t a way to get a date for Saturday night. Operation: Take a Soldier to the Movies sends “movie night” kits to troops in deployed locations. The project began as a way to support military members in war zones who had nothing to do outside of work hours. Each kit contains a letter of support from the donor with his or her mailing address included, a new or used DVD, artificially sweetened powdered drink mix packets (no tubs), movie theater-style candy (no chocolate) and microwavable popcorn. The public can assist the effort by passing the word about the project, contributing package items or making cash contributions. More information about donating is available on the Web site. Troops who would like to request a package can fill out the online form.

Gold Star Council
Family members of those killed or missing in combat and the leaders of organizations that represent them met recently to form the Gold Star Council, which will unify the groups’ shared concerns on Gold Star and Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) issues. The participating groups will maintain their individual missions and identities while the Gold Star Council will represent the broader coalition on specific issues. Organizations involved with the new council include the American Gold Star Mothers, Gold Star Wives of America, National League of POW/MIA Families, Sons and Daughters in Touch, American World War II Orphans Network, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, the White House Commission on Remembrance, Snowball Express and Families United. The U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps also attended the meeting and will serve the Gold Star Council in an advisory capacity.

Meeting organizer and Gold Star son Tony Cordero says the council can provide a comprehensive and cohesive voice to support the interests of those who survive fallen military heroes. Other Gold Star organizations and related veterans or military family groups interested in joining the Gold Star Council can contact Cordero at tony@sdit.org. E-mails should have the words "Gold Star Council" in the subject line.

The SIGNAL Connections staff encourages readers to take advantage of the programs mentioned in this column and to pass along the information. In addition, if you know of a program that is helping service personnel, please let us know about it. Submit that information to SIGNAL's news editor.

The SIGNAL Connections staff has made every effort to verify the legitimacy of these programs and to include information accurate at the time of publication. Inclusion in this column does not constitute an endorsement by AFCEA International or SIGNAL Connections.