Who is ready for some turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, corn casserole, dinner rolls and amazing desserts? That’s what most people think of when they start thinking about Thanksgiving. You have to start thinking about invitations, planning the menu, shopping for decorations, figuring out how to house all of these extra people…it can be crazy!!
THIS YEAR (and every year) I challenge you to stop and think about local military families in your area that may not be as blessed. They may be deployed (and need our thoughts and prayers). There may be single or displaced service members stationed close to you that do not have family or friends close by to enjoy the day with. There may be a family in need of help and that can take many forms (money, food, thoughts and prayers for loss or injury, etc). So with all of that, how can you help?
1. ¬†Feed the homeless
We are all aware of the staggering number of homeless veterans in our country. Check out your local food bank or homeless shelter to see how you can help. You may be able to help with spreading the word, collecting donations, cooking the food, serving the food, clean up ..whatever you are doing, your time volunteered will be appreciated wholeheartedly by all you serve.
2. ¬†Volunteer at your local VA Hospital
The VA Hospital can be a very sad and depressing place to visit, so I can’t imagine what it may be like to be there on a long-term basis. Bring a little sunshine in and take some time with local veterans being cared for in the facility. Read to them, sing to them, sit with them. If you are allowed, bring in treats that will remind them of home and family. Have your children draw pictures or record videos for them to watch while you are there. Adopt a vet and you will have year-round “thanksgiving”.
3. ¬†Thanksgiving Care Packages
Now, I know what you are thinking…”Hey Sarge! ¬†Why didn’t you put this out weeks ago??” ¬†But I want you to use your Thanksgiving holiday to write “thankful for” cards with your friends, family, children, co-workers and anyone else you can get to participate. ¬†Either on pre-printed Thank You cards or use a template of a turkey or similar for kids, write a general note to thank service members for their service, show appreciation for their sacrifice and provide them thoughts and prayers for a safe deployment. ¬†If you need an address to send to, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will match you up with a unit to send cards to.
4. ¬†Invite service members to your home for Thanksgiving
This is a great one to do for anyone you know may be sitting in the barracks by themselves, eating a not-so-great frozen turkey dinner. I don’t advocate inviting total strangers into your home, but if you know of a single or displaced service member through your church or civic group, invite them over for dinner. If they accept and ask what to bring, give them something easy so that they can contribute.
5. ¬†Feed a needy family
If you are near a military installation, contact the Chaplain to find out about any families in need. You can also contact any local VFW or AMVETS or other veteran organization in your area for information on providing a meal to a family. Most grocery stores offer a hot, cooked meal package from their deli that you could order in the name of the family so that they can pick it up for dinner that day. Let the person you received the name from know when it is ordered so they can notify the family. No deli? You can precook the meal the day before and take it over or provide a gift card to a local grocery store.
No families needing food, what abuot the family of a wounded warrior or a family that has lost their hero that year? Reach out to them and let them know they are not forgotten.
6. ¬†Honor those we have lost
In speaking with Gold Star families, one of the most often repeated worries is that their loved one will be forgotten. So this Thanksgiving, set a place at your table for someone lost. Show that family you care by decorating their chair or place setting with their name and info, a photo if you have one and a single white rose. Snap a quick picture to send to the family along with a note thanking them for their sacrifice.
Setup a POW/MIA¬†table in your home. This doesn’t need to be big or fancy and you can find out all about the items needed and their meaning in our POW/MIA¬†post.