7 Sweet & Simple Ways to Support Military Families
More than 2 million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. You’ll honor our troops (and the people who love them) by doing even one thing on this list.
By Alison Storm
1. Give hope to a new generation of young war widows. In May 2007, just 90 minutes after Taryn Davis spoke to her husband, Michael, an Army corporal in Iraq, he was killed by roadside bombs. She was racked with grief and desperate to talk to anyone who shared her experience, but, living far from a military base, she found no one. Finally, when Taryn couldn’t identify any organizations dedicated to grieving young widows, she started her own: the American Widow Project (AWP). The nonprofit hosts retreats at which widows and widowers can meet and share their stories. “I wanted to create a place where people don’t have to candy-coat what they’ve been through — it can just be raw and honest,” says Taryn, 25, pictured here (far right). Go to Americanwidowproject.org and make a donation (or band together with friends) to help cover the $350 cost of sending a widow to an upcoming AWP retreat.
2. Follow the example of Second Lady Jill Biden. “As a military mom, I know how an act of kindness makes a difference to a soldier,” Dr. Biden told REDBOOK. “We can all play a role with a simple act of service. This spring the First Lady and I will launch a campaign to rally Americans to support and embrace military families.” Enter your zip code at serve.gov/families.asp to find volunteer opportunities, like assisting at homecoming events.
3. Organize a baby-shower donation drive with your friends to gather supplies to create a “shower in a box” for one military mom-to-be. Then send the unwrapped items to Operation Shower, a nonprofit that’s thrown showers for more than 500 military wives. For more info, go to operationshower.org/donation/donate.
4. Transfer some of your frequent-flier miles to Hero Miles, a program that provides free flights for injured soldiers’ families to visit them in the hospital. Get details at fisherhouse.org/programs/heromiles.html.
5. Recycle old cell phones by donating them to Cell Phones for Soldiers, which sells the phones and then uses the funds to buy calling cards for troops. (Deployed soldiers are typically given only 15 minutes of free talk time a week.) The average resold phone buys a soldier 100 minutes of chatting. Print a free shipping label at cellphonesforsoldiers.com.
6. Adopt a soldier’s pet until he or she gets home safely. Finding long-term, inexpensive care for animals can be a challenge for deployed soldiers. Apply to be a pet’s foster family by signing up with the Military Pets Foster Project at netpets.org/netp/fosterhome.php.
7. Provide a little homeland security to a child whose parent is overseas. The nonprofit Operation Hug-A-Hero creates dolls designed with a head-to-toe photograph of the child’s parent, free of charge. “My daughters carry the dolls with their dad’s picture everywhere,” says Jackie Dorr, whose husband is in Afghanistan. “It makes them feel closer to him.” A donation of $25 to operationhugahero.org is enough to put a huggable doll in one child’s arms.