Operation Gratitude supports deployed warfighters by working to provide them with care packages and letters from groups and individuals back home. It sets itself apart from similar organizations by also bringing items to troops undergoing long-term rehabilitation at several military hospitals. To further the physical and mental well being of these warfighters, Operation Gratitude offers a service in which it sends packages from the injured to their unit members on the front lines. This has a two-fold result: those deployed know their wounded comrade is thinking about them, and the patients still feel they are contributing to the battlefield.
Supporting the Troops
Two U.S. Army officers who recently returned from deployments to Iraq each have the same advice for industry members who want to help soldiers-hire troops when they separate from the military. In my article "Iraqis Advance Toward Self-Security," in this issue of SIGNAL Magazine, Maj. James Trimble, USA, signal officer of the Army's 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, describes the successes and challenges of his unit's year in Iraq. He also discusses his interest in the welfare of his soldiers and what happens when they leave military service.
Entertainment, lodging and vehicles may seem like obvious choices for military discounts-but home power systems? Activity duty and retired military members in San Diego County, California, can enjoy price breaks on that, too, thanks to a deal by Stellar Solar. The company wants to show its appreciation for the sacrifices troops make by offering them between $1,000 and $2,000 off residential solar systems depending on the kilowatts needed. The company claims that by combining the discount with a 30 percent federal tax credit and the California rebate, users can have small or no electric bills.
Active duty, Reserve and Guard military members from any branch of service, including the Coast Guard, who want new wheels can take advantage of discounts on 2010 and 2011 Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles. Spouses also are eligible for the special pricing, which applies to the purchase or lease of up to two cars. In many cases, the military discount can be combined with other incentives for extra savings. Deals vary by location and model, but interested parties can gather some specifics on the website under the Regional Incentives tab.
Orlando is a fun-filled vacation destination and many of the theme parks and hotels in the city offer exclusive deals for the military community. Walt Disney World has discounts on tickets, hotel rooms and cruises. It even has a military-only hotel, Shades of Green, sitting on property close to the Magic Kingdom. Current specials are listed on a website for Disney World's military discounts.
This all-volunteer organization, more commonly referred to as SKIP, sends care packages to deployed service members. Though many groups across the country perform the same activity, SKIP also works to cooperate with other organizations to enhance the support troops receive. In addition, SKIP offers individually tailored support and guidance to military members and their families. Individuals and groups can assist and partner with the organization in several ways. More information about efforts is available on the website. SKIP accepts donations through igive.com and also raises funds through eBay partnerships and recycling.
Returning Heroes Home offers a place for wounded warriors and their families at the San Antonio Military Medical Center burn unit and the Center for the Intrepid to recover, rest and find support. The building is the new location of the Warrior and Family Support Center and provides a "living room" environment so the injured troops and their loved ones can enjoy the comforts of home during treatment.
Military personnel serving overseas can record a bedtime story and send it to their children for free thanks to an iPhone app called A Story Before Bed. The program offers 100,000 free recordings to help troops connect with loved ones back home. Any member of the U.S. armed forces who is deploying or already deployed can sign up on the A Story Before Bed website to receive a free storybook recording. Soldiers record a story using a webcam on a Mac or PC and send it to their children using the company's iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad app or a Web browser.
As the name suggests, AdoptAPlatoon does in fact allow organizations to adopt units of troops to send them packages and letters. But the effort goes much further, including: adoptions of military members by individuals or groups; a pen-pal option; one-time support opportunities; support for special operations forces whose information is not public; and holiday and special campaigns. The campaigns include sending holiday-themed cards and treats at the appropriate times of the year as well as programs to gather supplies for specific needs of troops or local children. AdoptAPlatoon takes its programs seriously and requires certain commitments from its volunteers.
Get out your good luck charms and join the USO of Metropolitan Washington (USO-Metro) for its 7th Annual Casino Night on October 15th at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. All proceeds will benefit the USO-Metro's programs for the capital area's service members and their families. The event will include the opportunity to mingle with celebrities and wounded warriors from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Hospital. Table games include roulette, blackjack and poker, and the evening also features silent and live auctions and entertainment. One lucky person will even win a trip to Las Vegas.
The Armed Services Mutual Benefit Association (ASMBA) STAR Foundation is a voluntary group that assists members of the military community by awarding funds to organizations that support them. Grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations that provide services to troops, veterans and their families as well as their communities. The foundation especially emphasizes groups that provide for combat-wounded troops, military families, scholarships for the military community, veterans and patriotic activities. Requests for capital projects and general operating support will be considered. The ASMBA STAR Foundation only funds individuals under specific criteria.
Heroes on the Water serves wounded and disabled active duty, Reserve and Guard troops. The group aims to help injured warfighters recover mentally and physically through the therapeutic qualities of fishing from kayaks. Participants enjoy guided fishing trips around the country. The programs offer basic kayak fishing instruction, angling clinics and paddling classes for people in various skill ranges. Adaptive kayaks, accessories and angling equipment are made available as needed to accommodate warriors with particular needs. The kayaks, various gear, meals and transportation are provided free of charge.
A team at the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) National Center for Telehealth and Technology developed an iPhone app called iBreathe, which will be available for free in the iTunes app store after January 2011. It aims to help military personnel, veterans and their family members deal with stressful situations by practicing deep "belly" breathing. DCoE researchers say high-stress situations often result in a "fight or flight" mentality, and the lingering stress can take a physical and mental toll.
"Support. Defend. Fish." That's the motto of the Army Bass Anglers, a group made up of active duty military members and veterans who compete in fishing tournaments to raise awareness for Returning Heroes Home and Fishing For Freedom events. Both programs support the military community. The latter also involves bass fishing tournaments where fishermen partner with soldiers and veterans, including those who have been wounded. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy Bass Angler groups support the missions as well.
Blue Star Families and the National Endowment for the Arts have partnered to create the Blue Star Museums, a group of 750 museums in all 50 states that offer free admission to military personnel and their families through Labor Day, September 6, 2010. The program is available to bearers of a Geneva Conventions common access card, a DD Form 1173 identification card or a DD form 1173-1 identification card, and five immediate family members. On the website, an interactive map of the United States enables users to click specific states to find participating museums and links to their sites.
Outback Steakhouse has pledged $1 million to Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency and morale support for active troops, veterans and their families. The public can help the restaurant chain meet its obligation by dining at Outback restaurants in the United States during the month of March and ordering off the "Red, White and Bloomin'" menu. Proceeds from those orders will go toward the $1 million donation. Anyone who wants to donate $5 directly to Operation Homefront can text "HERO" to 50555.
The name says it all. This organization connects Americans with deployed military members, enabling participants to choose their level of involvement, from writing letters to sending entire care packages. Each adopted warfighter is assigned several sponsors so the flow of support never ceases. Troops can register to be adopted, and the public can sign up to adopt a service member on the organization's Web site. Individuals and groups can adopt more than one soldier. The Web site also includes an online community and lists of how to donate and what to donate.
For several years Fumar Cigars has partnered with Blue Star Moms to send boxes of cigars to troops deployed in the Middle East. In collaboration with Oliva Tobacco, the company manufactures cigars with logos for all five branches of the armed forces. Anyone interested can sponsor a box, which will be matched one-for-one. The price to donate to a currently deployed warfighter is $65, and Fumar will cover the cost of shipping. Or, people can choose to donate a box to the five-times-a-year mass shipments for $50.
Boatsie's Boxes started out sending packages to the base hospital in Balad, Iraq, and now gives goodies to several military hospitals as well as young troops deployed for the first time. In addition, through help from service members, items now are reaching the front lines of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The organization does special mailings at holidays such as Operation Christmas Stocking and the recent mailings of bags of jelly beans at Easter.
In the sphere of military community support, Army Community Covenant operates at the strategic level. The organization aims at raising awareness and encouraging businesses, agencies and groups at the local and state levels to create and foster state and community partnerships that assist service members. The first phase of the program is the signing of the Community Covenant. Each community determines its own wording for the document and decides on the number of signatories, usually between 16 and 20 people.