Thursday, December 30, 2010

support our troops

Whether in peacetime or in war, no matter what generation we are a part of, or which era we live in, the American military will always be a huge part of our lives and our culture.  The brave men and women who choose to serve their country and preserve the safety and freedom of people around the world deserve our love, respect, and support.  With that, today (even though the holidays are past, I feel very strongly that this is important no matter what time of year) I bring you a couple of charities that will help to support our brave soldiers.

First of all, just about every American has heard of the USO.  Since 1940, the USO, a nonprofit, congressionally chartered, private organization (not part of the U.S. government, btw), has been helping troops serving in combat, their families, our wounded warriors and their families, and families of the fallen. They rely on the generosity of individuals, organizations and corporations to support its activities. A donation to the USO can help the troops make a holiday phone call back home for free, bring all the things that remind them of home to the front lines thanks to USO2GO, and give them some much-needed comfort and a place to relax at USO centers right there in the war zone.  That's not all...

The USO has a heart-wrenchingly awesome program called United Through Reading where service men and women simply read a book aloud while being recorded on DVD for their child, then the DVD and book are mailed to the child and family back home.  Seeing firsthand how difficult it can be for soldiers to be away from their growing children and how much the kids miss their parents when they're gone, I just love the idea of this program.   Check out all the programs you can support with a donation to the USO.

One of the most important programs I think the USO sponsors that I would also like to highlight is the USO Wounded Warrior Program which has all sorts of facilities and programs to support our soldiers injured in the line of duty.  Look at all the different ways a donation to Operation Enduring Care can help our wounded warriors.

{Until tomorrow, Dec. 31, any gift you make to the USO will be matched by a generous supporter, dollar-for-dollar (up to $350,000).} - offer expired

I would also like to tell you about another organization helping wounded soldiers pointed out to me by my mom - the mother, daughter, and sister of American soldiers.  Homes for Our Troops is a national non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2004.  They help those who have selflessly given to our country and returned home with serious disabilities and injuries by raising donations of money, building materials, and professional labor and coordinating the building of homes that provide maximum freedom of movement and the ability to live more independently.  The homes provided by Homes for Our Troops are given at NO COST to the Veterans they serve.

I would like to continue this thread about our military by also recognizing those who have served our country in the past.  Our veterans deserve as much respect as those serving today, though for some reason, as a country, we don't give them the reverence they deserve.

Did you know that there are over 100,000 homeless U.S. military veterans?

Anyone in NYC can recognize them sleeping in subway cars and tunnels, but they exist in every corner of this country. In 2009, the VA finally stepped up their efforts and endorsed the Opening Doors plan to end veteran homelessness in the next five years.  This is a issue, however, that demands all of our IMMEDIATE attention.

Please do not ignore the homeless - even if they scare you. I'm sorry, but their lives are already hard enough without our apathy and judgement. You can always offer them a dollar or some food.  Or, make a donation to a homeless shelter in your neighborhood.  For example, the Manhattan Campus of the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System has several programs in the boroughs to help homeless veterans including shelters, supportive housing, and job training.   They depend on the goodwill of benefactors and volunteers who wish to give something back to America's heroes, so find what you can do to volunteer or give (and it's not just money they need!  You can donate clothes, toiletries, books, and things to make people's lives a little more comfortable!).  There are VA's in every state, so find yours and figure out what you can do to make a contribution.  They took care of us, so let us now take care of them.

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