Supporting the Troops

August 23, 2012
By Rita Boland

This first WonWorld campaign is nothing if not ambitious. Honor our Heroes aims to raise $300 million for the military relief societies that provide direct assistance to military families. The organization further expects to create an ongoing revenue stream of up to $120 million for those groups. To raise all that money, WonWorld plans to sell 60 million armbands for $5 each. Relief funds and their corporate supporters will help sell the items, or people can order packs containing between two and 100 bands. Each military service has a band designed specifically for it.

August 16, 2012
By Rita Boland is the brainchild of Wolfgang Ward, a combat veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart who got fed up trying to track down all the benefits available to him from different groups. So he decided to create a resource to help anyone in the military community, from spouses to wounded veterans, find the help they need in one place. Visitors to the site answer questions explaining their current status, then they receive an email with a secure password so they can download their free customized report.

July 27, 2012
By Rachel Eisenhower

The world is buzzing about the Summer Olympics in London, and a new website from the American Forces Press Service is helping fans track some very special athletes. Located within the U.S. Defense Department's official website, the special Olympic report features profiles, articles and images of service members competing in the games. The site will be updated throughout the events, so check back frequently as the competitors take on challenges from skeet shooting to wrestling and more.

June 14, 2012
By Rita Boland

Through its America the Beautiful program, the National Park Service is offering free passes to military members and their dependents. The passes grant no-cost admission to federal recreation sites. Depending on how admission is charged at various facilities, the benefit allows pass owners and accompanying passengers in a single, noncommerical vehicle to enter the sites for free or for the pass owner and three persons age 16 and older to enter without paying a fee. No entry fee is charged for children under 15.

September 13, 2012
By Rita Boland

Hotels for Heroes offers free hotel rooms to wounded, injured and ill service members who are undergoing treatment at military or Veterans Affairs medical centers or who need to attend certain events. Administered by the Fisher House Foundation—an organization long known for providing accommodations and support to military families—the program provides its rooms through hotel-point donations from individuals. It's the perfect opportunity to combine point numbers too small for a free stay with donations from others. All requests for rooms received by Hotels for Heroes are vetted through authorized officials.

September 6, 2012
By Rita Boland

The U.S. Defense Department's Valor website pays homage to troops who have earned the country's highest decorations for bravery. Recipients of the Medal of Honor and each service's cross award are listed. The department is working on listing Silver Star honorees as well. Anyone unfamiliar with the various medals can read the descriptions of them to learn more. The site also provides links to each military branch's own awards Web page. Homefront Help also has a Facebook page where visitors can gather and share information.

April 19, 2012
By Rita Boland

Just when you think Disney can't get any better, it goes and announces the Heroes Work Here initiative. Over the next three years, the company has pledged to provide at least 1,000 jobs and career opportunities for returning U.S. veterans. It also will support troops and their families as they transition to civilian life and will launch a national public awareness campaign to encourage job opportunities for veterans.

April 12, 2012
By Rita Boland

Operation Gratitude is one of Homefront Help's favorite organizations because of its untiring efforts to send boxes of comfort to deployed troops. Each care package includes approximately 50 snack, entertainment and hygiene items as well as personal letters of appreciation to let the recipients know they are remembered and valued. To make them feel even more special, each package is addressed to a specific individual.

April 5, 2012
By Rita Boland

The 2012 NAB Show in Las Vegas this month includes an extra-special event-a concert to honor the U.S. military featuring Rodney Atkins and Lucas Hoge. The show will raise funds for ThanksUSA, which provides need-based scholarships to the children and spouses of active-duty troops. ThanksUSA is inviting 400 families from nearby Nellis Air Force Base to attend. NAB Show registrants can pick up tickets at the door for a charitable donation of $20. The program begins at 7:30 p.m.

March 15, 2012
By Rita Boland

Catastrophically wounded or ill service members and people involved in their care can access the Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (SCAADL) calculator to determine the amount of stipend they can receive to help cover nonmedical expenses. Authorized under the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, SCAADL is a monthly compensation for eligible service members who require assistance with daily living or who are at high risk for personal safety and cannot live independently.

March 6, 2012
By Rachel Eisenhower

A new app from the U.S. Defense Department provides wounded warriors with a comprehensive mobile resource guide. The Compensation and Benefits Handbook for Wounded, Ill and Injured Members of the Armed Forces is available for Android and iOS devices. The application allows service members and their families to access information at any time about benefits available to them upon separation or retirement as a result of a serious injury or illness. It includes resources for recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration, including chapters on medical care, Defense Department pay and allowances, the Disability Evaluation System and returning to civilian life.

March 8, 2012
By Rita Boland

People across the United States are eager to thank troops for their service, but direct encounters can leave these grateful citizens feeling unsure or awkward about how to show their appreciation. The Gratitude Campaign is working to fix that. This organization has created and is trying to spread the word about a universal hand gesture that means "thank you from the bottom of my heart." To make the sign, place your hand on your heart as if you're saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, pull your hand down and out, bending at the elbow, stopping for a moment near the belly button with the hand flat, palm up and angled toward the person being thanked.

March 1, 2012
By Rita Boland

Homes on the Homefront is more than just a catchy name. This partnership between Operation Homefront and Chase Bank will give at least 100 wounded-warrior, military and veterans' families their own permanent homes this year. In addition, selectees will receive financial counseling. First priority will go to families currently living in Operation Homefront Village.

February 9, 2012
By Rita Boland

The hard-and-fast, no-exceptions deadline to apply for the Scholarships for Military Children Program is fast approaching. All applications must be received at eligible military commissaries by February 24. At least one $1,500 scholarship will be awarded at each commissary location where qualified applications are received. More than one scholarship may be handed out depending on response and funding. Recipients can use the awards for tuition, books, lab fees and other education-related expenses. 

February 2, 2012
By Rita Boland

Promoting the idea that "Kids Deploy Too!" when they see parents go to battle overseas, Military Kids Connect offers children of the armed forces an online forum to network with others in the same situation. Users can participate on message boards, take part in activities and games or watch videos of children who have experienced a parent's deployment. Monitored social networking features allow military dependents to share their struggles and experiences in a secure environment. Resources are divided by age groups: 6 to 8 years; 9 to 12 years; and 13 to 17 years. Developers of the site hope it eases the pain children go through during a deployment.

January 19, 2012
By Rita Boland

American Hometown Heroes is an initiative launched late last year by a coalition of independent Yellow Pages publishers. It aims to give veterans a leg up on becoming entrepreneurs and to reduce the high numbers of unemployment and underemployment among those who have served in the U.S. military. The involved partners offer business and professional advice to veterans starting companies in the communities the publishers serve. Approved grant applicants will receive free online and Yellow Pages advertising along with help throughout the first year of starting a new business.

January 12, 2012
By Rita Boland

Military families are enjoying a little extra financial support thanks to Troopons, a joint venture between Support Our Troops and CouponCabin. The program asks people to send in manufacturers' coupons (and only manufacturers' coupons) from any source except the Internet, and the deals will be sent to those who need them. Troopons even accepts expired coupons, which can be used on military bases for up to six months past their expiration dates.

December 22, 2011
By Rita Boland

During a horrific battle in Afghanistan, Sgt. Dakota Meyer, USMC, saved the lives of 13 U.S. Marines and soldiers and 23 Afghans, enduring injuries to himself in the process; he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor. Sgt. Meyer showed more dedication to others in that single firefight than most will do in their entire lives, but instead of resting on his laurels, he has embarked on a new venture to help his fellow Marines. The hero has partnered with the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation to create the Sergeant Dakota Meyer Scholarship for the children of wounded Marines and Navy Corpsmen.

December 15, 2011
By Rita Boland

Most deadlines for shipping cards and packages to warzones in time for the holidays have passed, but you can still send e-cards to deployed loved ones overseas courtesy of Real Warriors. Users can choose the animated or still version of the "Happy Holidays from Afar" card. Both feature a military theme as well as the contact information for Real Warriors, which provides help for troops, veterans and family members readjusting to life after deployment.

The organization also offers several non-holiday e-card options with "Welcome Home" or "Reaching Out is a Sign of Strength" themes.


December 1, 2011
By Henry Kenyon

Hickory Farms is offering military families and friends a chance to send gift packages to APO or FPO addresses without paying shipping fees. The company sells a variety of packages of meats, cheeses, fruit and nuts that qualify for the deal. However, to take advantage of the free shipping customers have to act fast. Combat-zone Christmas delivery is guaranteed only on orders placed by December 3. For other military addresses, customers have to order by December 10 to ensure packages reach their destinations by the 25th. (Reminder: military mail service in Iraq has ended.)