There's no doubt America owes a huge debt of gratitude to the military men and women who work tirelessly and put their lives on the line to make America a safer place for us all. But what can average Americans do to show their support and appreciation for our men and women in uniform -- those that are serving now or those who sacrificed for their country in the past? Here are five suggestions that are easy to put into practice.
1. Write to a Member of Our Troops -- The late syndicated columnist Abigail Van Buren, also known as "Dear Abby," used her influence for years to promote goodwill and cheer to the men and women of the Armed Forces during the holiday season. Each year special mailing addresses were created so Abby's loyal readers could send personal holiday greetings to military personnel around the world. Prior to 9-11-01, the Pentagon encouraged civic-minded civilians to reach out and show their appreciation to our men and women in uniform with personal letters. Unfortunately, security measures have curtailed most letter writing programs, so Abby's mission has now gone digital. Patriotic Americans can now send email messages to a member of our troops serving overseas by visiting www.operationdearabby.net. The service is quick, easy and free.
2. Write to the Editor of A Military Newspaper -- A great way to communicate your appreciation to our troops at large is to write a letter to the editor of a service-oriented newspaper:
The Army Times, Navy Times, and Air Force Times all operate from the same address: 6885 Commercial Drive, Springfield, Virginia 22159.
The Stars & Stripes, a daily newspaper published exclusively for U.S. military stationed overseas, has two locations: write to the editor of the Far East edition at Pacific Stars & Stripes, APO JA 96337. Reach the editor of the European edition at Stars & Stripes, APO AE 09211.
3. Volunteer for the USO -- Much more than the annual Bob Hope TV specials you watched as a kid, the USO or United Service Organization's mission is to provide morale, welfare and recreation services to uniformed military personnel working in the United States and around the world as well as deliver "a touch of home."
A non-profit, non-governmental agency that depends on the time and financial generosity of the American people, over 12,000 volunteers provide an estimated 450,000 hours of service annually, and a worldwide personal contribution of over $3 million, allowing the USO to operate 122 centers, including 5 mobile canteens around the world. In addition, thirty-three independent affiliated USO corporations are located throughout the United States.
Overseas, the unpaid volunteer to paid employee ratio is more than twenty to one; domestically that number is significantly higher. If you would like to volunteer your time and skills to the USO, the following website will help you find the office nearest you, or call 1-800-USO-SHOW to make a financial donation. www.uso.org/locations.htm
4. Buy VFW Poppies -- The wearing of small paper poppies, known as "Buddy Poppies," has been a patriotic tradition since 1923. Made by disabled and aging veterans in VA Hospitals and homes across the country, the poppies provide money to assist the veterans and their families. Sold by local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) posts, Buddy Poppy proceeds do not profit any VFW unit, but rather go directly to help veterans in need. The VFW was granted all Trademark Rights to the name "Buddy Poppy" in 1924, which means no other organization or individual can use that name. The "Buddy Poppy" label provides the public a way of knowing they are getting the real deal. You can learn more about the poppies or make a direct donation to the VFW at www.vfw.org.
5. Buy POW/MIA Merchandise -- Support the efforts of the League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia by purchasing gifts of POW flags, bracelets and other items that show support for the organization's ongoing work -- lobbying for the hrefease of all prisoners, the fullest possible accounting for the missing in Southeast Asia and the repatriation of all recoverable remains of those who died serving our nation during the Vietnam war. For more information or to order POW/MIA merchandise, click to www.pow-miafamilies.org.
These are but a few easy ways every American man woman or child can show patriotism and support the people that do so much for our country.
In addition to being editor of this website, Cheri Sicard is the author is The Great American Handbook, What You Can Do For Your Country Today and Everyday (2002, Berkley Trade)