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

MilitaryBenefitsReport.com 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.)

November 17, 2011
By Rita Boland

Looking for a chance to spread some Christmas cheer to deployed service members? Operation Holiday Stockings is striving to send gifts to 1,600 troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and other locations in Asia. The public can participate in several ways: donate time and make a stocking (see the Make Stockings page for directions and stocking-stuffer ideas); buy a stocking and mail it to the organization; create and contribute a Christmas card that the organization can send along with the stockings; or donate money toward shipping costs and the purchase of stocking stuffers.

November 10, 2011
By Rita Boland

Care-package organization Operation Gratitude is in the midst of one of its two major yearly campaigns. The Holiday Drive will run until December 17, collecting for and assembling packages to ship to war zones overseas. Donations will be accepted through December 5 with assembly days held periodically between now and the end date. A schedule, instructions on how to receive location information and rules for volunteering are available online. Wish-list items also are posted on the site.

November 11, 2011
By Henry Kenyon

SIGNAL and AFCEA extend our admiration and gratitude to all veterans. We appreciate your sacrifice not only on November 11, but every day. We have produced a special veterans supplement publication to our November edition. The resource is full of information about programs that benefit U.S. veterans and words of praise from citizens in many walks of life.

The content can be accessed on SIGNAL's  A Salute to Veterans, Troops and Their Families site, which includes a section for people to leave their own messages of support to those who have fought for freedom.

November 3, 2011
By Rita Boland

On Thursday, November 10, inns and bed and breakfasts around the U.S. and Canada are offering free rooms to veterans and a guest in observance of Veterans and Remembrance days. Those who served in the American armed forces can find a list of participating U.S. locations at www.bnbsforvets.org; Canadian veterans and military members can find properties in their country at www.bbcanada.com/bbforvets. Additional information about the offers also can be found on the sites. Veterans should book their rooms directly through the inns and B&Bs, which may require proof of prior service.

October 27, 2011
By Henry Kenyon

This year, there's no reason to throw away leftover Halloween candy or eat it until your teeth rot. Instead, donate it to Treats 4 Our Troops and the organization will ship it to deployed warfighters. Locations around the Northern Virginia area will collect the sweets for delivery to and pick-up by the nonprofit. Groups outside of that geographic location who wish to participate can contact Treats 4 Our Troops for addresses so they can send their packages directly overseas.

October 24, 2011
By Henry Kenyon

Birdies for the Brave is a PGA Tour Charities program that raises money for organizations established to support the military community. The effort involves several types of activities such as letter writing, distributing care packages and fundraising golf tournaments conducted at a network of golf clubs across the United States.

October 6, 2011
By Rita Boland

The Code of Support Foundation has created a code that transitions the phrase "support our troops" into meaningful promises that actually benefit troops, veterans and their families. Citizens can read the pledge online and then electronically sign it to become part of the Corps of Support, a dispersed group of people who take action to help the military community. The website features a list of organizations endorsed by the foundation. Signers are encouraged to volunteer at them or to donate money.

October 4, 2011
By Rachel Eisenhower

The free Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) Pocket Guide app for Android gives health care providers instant access to resources on improving care for service members and veterans suffering from mTBI. Military and civilian physicians, assistants, nurse practitioners and other health care providers can use the app to find information on assessing, treating and managing common symptoms of mTBI patients. It features a wide range of informative resources, including definitions, causes and severity ratings. In addition, the app includes U.S.

September 15, 2011
By Rita Boland

Go all in to support the troops at the USO of Metropolitan Washington's (USO-Metro's) 8th Annual Stars and Stripes Casino Night on Friday, October 28, from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Sheraton National Hotel. Proceeds will benefit the military community through programs such as outreach to children with deployed parents, support services for spouses, emergency housing and wounded warrior care. Attendees will enjoy a buffet and can play a variety of games including Blackjack, Texas Hold 'em and Roulette. The evening also will feature a raffle and auctions.

July 21, 2011
By Rita Boland

Since 2004, this organization has offered support to Marines and their loved ones in Florida. In addition to working for active-duty families, the group reaches out to reservists, retired Marines, veterans, wounded warriors and those in boot camp or the delayed entry program. "Family" includes not only spouses and children but also mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents and friends. Gold and Silver Star families are always welcome to seek support as well. Though dedicated to the Devil Dog community, the organization extends its outreach to include all military branches and other patriotic supporters.

June 16, 2011
By Rita Boland

This special travel organization offers service members and other U.S. Defense Department personnel a chance to enjoy vacations for discount prices at more than 3,500 time share properties in approximately 80 countries. Through the deals, travelers can stay at locations without buying into a time share or even attending a presentation for one, if they so choose.

May 27, 2011
By Rita Boland

The SIGNAL staff extends its appreciation to our service men and women, veterans and their families this Memorial Day, especially those who have paid the ultimate price. Because freedom isn't free. Share your plans or suggestions for celebrating Memorial Day on on the Homefront Help Facebook page.

May 10, 2011
By Rachel Eisenhower

The U.S. Army Accessions Command launched the Army Strong Stories app for iPhone along with a mobile website as part of its blogging and storytelling initiative. Army Strong Stories is a program from the command, which is dedicated to sharing blogs and videos created by soldiers, family members, friends and supporters. Soldiers of every rank and background can share their perspective on daily life in the military and chronicle their experiences from basic combat training to serving overseas. The blog is also open to cadets, veterans and Army-contracted civilians.

April 28, 2011
By Rita Boland

Rising above U.S. Interstate 95 from a site adjacent to Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, this museum serves as a tribute to former, current and future U.S. Marines. The facility boasts interactive exhibits, historical artifacts and a restaurant replicating Tun Tavern, the birthplace of the Marine Corps. As extra incentive to visit, the museum is putting on its "Semper Find" photographic scavenger hunt through April 30. Participants must locate 17 items from inside the museum and from the Semper Fidelis Memorial Park to be eligible for prizes. The museum is open every day except Christmas and admission is free.

March 31, 2011
By Rita Boland

When sick and wounded troops are evacuated out of war zones, they often arrive at military hospitals with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, and those are often damaged from battle or purposely cut to treat wounds. This leaves injured warfighters little recourse other than to use their own money to purchase the basic personal effects they require. Enter Jammies for GIs. Despite the name, the group does more than hand out nightwear. It works to provide a clean change of clothes, entertainment and other goods to those who came to harm fighting for their country.

March 24, 2011
By Rita Boland

AFCEA staff frequently participate in community and troop support activities, and in one such event AFCEA provided cards, postage, small gift and prepaid postcards--and a pizza lunch, during which AFCEA staff members hand wrote more than 100 "Get Well Soon" and "Thank You" cards to wounded warriors and the medical personnel who care for them. The prepaid postcard was self addressed to AFCEA so that the warfighters, nurses or doctors could write back if they wanted to.

March 3, 2011
By Rita Boland

The Employer Partnership (EP) of the Armed Forces exists to link U.S. employers with service members, veterans and their families. Through the initiative, the military community can receive help leveraging its military training and experience for civilian career opportunities with national, regional and local employer partners. The organization has program support managers in 25 locations who serve as liaisons with human resources departments at companies and agencies on behalf of the military. The managers also post information about job fairs and other events as well as work with service members to refine their applications, resume writing and interview skills.

February 1, 2011
By Rachel Eisenhower

Capt. Jonathan Springer, USA, an artillery specialist on his third deployment in Afghanistan, hopes to launch the Tactical Nav app for the iPhone in the first week of February. The tool will map, plot and photograph points on a battleground and convey latitude and longitude coordinates to supporting units. The app consists of a Global Positioning System, a compass, the smart phone's camera and a mapping system to pinpoint specific locations and relay that information to other users. Capt.

February 3, 2011
By Rita Boland

The U.S. Defense Department has established a Wounded Warrior Task Force (WWTF) to assist and support the care, management and transition of recovering wounded, ill and injured members of the U.S. military. Areas the task force will examine include medical and nonmedical case management, staff of wounded-warrior units, performance and accountability systems, services for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, and the effectiveness of various centers of excellence.

January 27, 2011
By Rita Boland

The mission of Honor and Remember is to create, establish and promote a nationally recognized flag to fly continually as a visible reminder of the lives lost in defense of the United States' national freedom since the country's founding. People who want to support the cause can sign the petition posted on the website and pass the word about the potential new symbol. Other goals of the group include building consensus among various parties to collectively solicit the U.S.

January 20, 2011
By Rita Boland

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.

January 14, 2011
By Rita Boland

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.

December 9, 2010
By Rita Boland

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.

December 2, 2010
By Rita Boland

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.

November 18, 2010
By Rita Boland

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.

November 4, 2010
By Rita Boland

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.

October 28, 2010
By Rita Boland

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.

October 26, 2010
By Rachel Eisenhower

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.

October 21, 2010
By Rita Boland

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.

October 7, 2010
By Rita Boland

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.