Looking for a way to support our armed service people this holiday season? It’s been on my mind—maybe because my husband and I recently saw the 2013 film Lone Survivor. I’m not a war flick person, but the based-on-a-true story of the botched SEALS mission is powerful, and I found the slideshow of snapshots of the real people and their families to be heart-wrenching. Or perhaps it’s been on my mind because my four year old is suddenly able to turn anything into a gun or shooting device. Or maybe because when we signed up for pre-K through the local school system, we had to check a box about whether it was ok or not for recruiters to speak to our son about the armed services. (I know it’s a standard form, but at four? Really?!)
I’m not against the idea…but raising two boys who may know the horrors of war terrifies me.
So, I’ve been thinking about how we can support the folks out there right now, serving our country in all we ask them to do. Regardless of my political beliefs or opinions on our foreign policy, I can’t help but think about those men and women with the utmost gratitude.
Here are three ways to send a little morale boost and cheer:
#1. No time, but want to give: USO Care Packages
If time is tight this year, you can donate online to support care packages put together by USO. It’s tax-deductible and hassle free.
#2. Ready to give big or small: Operation Shoebox
One of my mama-friends puts together shoe boxes every year with her sons to send to Operation Shoebox. You can put together boxes to send or coordinate a drive to collect some of the things they put in their massive effort of care packages (here’s their list). Check out their site for instructions.
#3. Let’s put together the whole kit and kaboodle: Any Soldier
I was looking for a little more of a hands-on approach this year, so when my friend, Shannon, posted this link, I checked it out. They had me at Beanie Babies. I’ll explain:
The website is a little cumbersome, but basically Any Soldier is a platform for service people to send direct requests to the public. You can click through the names (you can search by number of people in their troop, from whence they hail, number of females/males, etc.) to find wish lists and request their addresses. I found a sergeant representing 9 men and 3 women in Kuwait. Her list was relatively simple—asking for candy and personal hygiene items—so I added some of the items to my shopping list and picked them up at the grocery store.
The site also encourages people to send Beanie Babies. They are easy to carry, and soldiers can give them to children they meet while on duty. As the site says, “Soldiers to carry with them and give to the local kids who love them. These are better then small plastic toys which will break easily and are not as easy to carry in a pack. There is NO more effective ambassador for our country than a Soldier helping the local folks.” Amazingly, we happen to have recently inherited about 14 million of the soft little suckers. It turns out that my parents found yet another box (while cleaning out under a bed storage) that they can’t wait to
unload on send to us.
Our little guy helped me pack the box, while his daddy helped our four year old make a holiday greeting card. I added a short note expressing our gratitude, got the address from Any Soldier, and shipped it away to Kuwait. The site warns against looking for acknowledgement of receipt, but I signed up to get a notice if/when the sergeant posts again (she had a history of sending messages of appreciation and future needs from what looks like her last stint on duty). We kept the explanation with our kids very simple: we’re sending these gifts to soldiers who won’t see their families for Christmas.
What ways have you found to support the troops with your kids? How do you explain the armed services to your children?