Ever have a dream that makes you stop in your tracks and wonder where it came from? I had one of those dreams last night.
I was in an auditorium waiting for something. I don’t know what or why, but the rest of the auditorium was filled with servicemen and service women all in their combat camos. Two women were sitting together near me and I quietly said “Thank you for serving our country.” It’s something I try to do in my waking life whenever I see someone in uniform. When I say ‘try’ it’s because I don’t always do it. I should stand proud and show my gratitude, but I’m almost always choking back tears when I say it. I have no idea why. I’ve tried to teach my kids to be thoughtful, thankful and show their appreciation as well. Every once in a while they will, but they are often too shy or embarrassed to walk up to a total stranger. The service members always smile, sometimes say “You’re welcome” or even “Thank you” back to us for acknowledging them. But in the dream, things were different. One woman said thank you and the other criticized me. She said I didn’t understand.
So what did I do? I woke up trying to make sense of why my subconscious would put together these random thoughts. What a lot of people don’t know is that I had considered enlisting when I was in high school, going so far as talking with a recruiter. My thought was to follow in my father’s footsteps and maybe even shoot for West Point. Advice from my parents was to attend a normal college and pursue a corporate career which is what I ended up doing. Maybe that’s why I long to tell people thank you for their service.
My dream reminded me that I can use my talents and my resources to highlight organizations that help our service people. So today, I’m featuring a few charitable organizations and things you can do to show your support.
1) Show your gratitude. If you see someone wearing military clothing whether at the store, the mall, school, a restaurant or wherever, take the 30 seconds out of your schedule to walk up to them and tell them thank you for their service. 30 seconds is far less than the 24/7 they have devoted.
2) Honor Flight. Every time I see a newscast about the latest honor flight, I’m reminded that I want to take the girls to one of the departure or welcoming ceremonies. Of course, there are many ways to support the Honor Flight program. Donate, sponsor or volunteer… or may just show up at the airport to let these veterans know how important they are.
3) Disabled American Veterans (DAV): Our first introduction to this program was through their local thrift store. If you have something to donate, then this is worth considering. The funds from the DAV thrift stores support veteran causes. As with Honor Flight, there are many ways to support the cause.
4) Flags/Flowers on Military Graves: Each year volunteers make their way to cemeteries across the country to lay flags, flowers and wreaths on military graves. Wreaths Across America is one example of a charity helping make this happen.
5) Support a charity: There are a multitude of charities needing support including programs like the Wounded Warrior Project, USO, Puppies Behind Bars, Freedom Service Dogs of America and Fisher House. Charity Navigator can help you find a program that matches your interests.
6) Wave the flag: There are local organizations that place flags in front of homes on each major federal holiday. You pay annually and volunteers from different organizations install the flags at dawn and remove them at dusk. Contact your local chamber of commerce or city welcoming organization to find out if this program is available in your area. If it isn’t, maybe you could set it up! At a minimum, you should purchase and fly the United States flag on your own.
7) Care packages, cards and other support. There are so many ways to support our troops, the ideas are endless. A number of organizations offer care package programs, school and church groups often organize drives and local branches of the National Guard often collect gifts for military families during the holidays.
Whether you support a cause financially, find ways to donate your time and talents, or verbally express your gratitude, it all matters.
What are your favorite ways to support the active military and veterans?