Remember the Troops and their Families at the Holidays
By State Senator Julie Lassa
As we enter another holiday season, it’s a good time to pause from our busy preparations to remember the men and women who serve in our nation’s military. More than 150,000 active-duty U.S. troops are stationed in 150 countries around the world, with hundreds of thousands more at stateside bases that may be very far from home. These brave men and women and their families sacrifice every day to keep our country safe and free, and that sacrifice weighs a little heavier during this time of year when the rest of us enjoy the comforts of home and the closeness of our loved ones.
There was a time when you could send a card or a package to “Any Service Member” and have the Postal Service deliver it to a lucky GI. Those days are gone, but fortunately there are hundreds of ways to express your appreciation directly to an active duty service person. Go to the website www.defense.gov/resources and find the category “Community Support for the Military.” There you’ll find links to dozens of organization that can help you send a card or a care package, provide electronic devices, phone cards, and entertainment and recreation opportunities to service members. You can even help groups that provide housing, emergency financial assistance, and counseling to active-duty troops and to returning veterans. There are opportunities to help the families of deployed service members as well.
Two traditional ways of helping the troops are still very much available. The United Service Organization – the USO – still provides comfort and entertainment to troops around the globe, as well as help for the families of fallen soldiers, foreign language training, care packages, and many other services. The American Red Cross also provides a range of services to military service members and their families, including helping troops communicate with their families in times of emergency, connecting military families at home and around the world with support services, resiliency and preparedness training for returning veterans, and transition and reintegration support to wounded warriors, to veterans, and to their families.
Another way you can help the Red Cross help soldiers is by donating blood. The Red Cross is the nation’s largest blood collection organization, and maintaining an ample blood supply at home means there is blood available for emergency shipments to troops in the field overseas, as well as disaster and emergency victims here at home. Participate in a local blood drive, or contact www.redcrossblood.org to learn how to sponsor a blood drive for your workplace or organization.
You can also give of your time to support veterans and military families right here at home. Military families can benefit from your home repair skills or financial, legal, or career expertise. You can visit wounded warriors and veterans in Veterans Administration hospitals and nursing facilities, or provide a ride to a veteran who needs to get to medical or support services. There are even volunteer roles you can fulfill from home or online. The website Serve.gov has a special section devoted to volunteer opportunities to help veterans and military families, which you can search by location.
In our area, we are fortunate to have the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King near Waupaca, and the Veterans Assistance Foundation and VA Hospital, both in Tomah.
As you can see, there are many ways to help troops and their families at this time of year. Whether it’s a care package, a pint of blood, or help for their loved ones back home, please consider taking time out from your holiday activities to show how much you appreciate the sacrifices our military men and women make for us every day.