December holidays roll around every year without fail. When it comes to the holidays, there’s just no place like home. It’s where we feel safe, where our friends and family are, and where the food and the conversation are at least predictable, if not actually enjoyable.
Not everyone gets to go home for the holidays. America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are serving and sacrificing – away from their families – in more than 150 countries around the globe, while we celebrate the holidays here at home.
How many men and women are serving in the U.S. Military? As of December 31, 2011 there were 1,414,000 total Active Duty troops. The numbers for 2012 have yet to be released. Here is a break down of those troops by service branch:
- Air Force: 332,724
- Army: 558,571
- Marines: 200,225
- Navy: 322,629
You can make an impact! Support our active duty servicemen and women, wounded troops and military families this season. The days of addressing mail to “Any Service Member” are long gone, yet there are many ways to show your support. Here are just a few of the great organizations doing amazing things on the home front and overseas:
SEND A MESSAGE, LETTER OR CARD
A Million Thanks is a year-round campaign to show our appreciation for our U.S. Military men and women, past and present, for their sacrifices, dedication, and service to our country through our letters, emails, cards, and prayers.
Visit the USO’s Thanks From Everywhere page and let our Servicemembers, Veterans (including those hospitalized Veterans in local VA Medical Centers) and Families know they are appreciated.
SEND A CARE PACKAGE
Operation Gratitude annually sends 100,000 care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed in hostile regions, to their children left behind and to Wounded Warriors, Veterans and First Responders.
SHARE THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT
Trees for Troops has been sharing the holiday spirit with our military families and troops since 2005, sending an average of 17,000 Christmas trees per year to more than 60 installations in the US and overseas.
The American Red Cross is sponsoring a national “Holiday Mail for Heroes” campaign to receive and distribute holiday cards to service members, veterans and their families in the United States and abroad. The card campaign includes those working and receiving care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
SUPPORT MILITARY FAMILIES
The Fisher House program is a unique private-public partnership that supports America’s military in their time of need. The program recognizes the special sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and the hardships of military service by meeting a humanitarian need beyond that normally provided by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
DONATE FREQUENT FLYER MILES
Hero Miles has provided more than 30,000 tickets to service members and their families, worth over $50 million (average savings per ticket is currently about $1,400).
DONATE HOTEL POINTS
Hotels for Heroes provides free hotel rooms to wounded, injured, and ill military men and women who are undergoing treatment at a military or VA medical center and to attend authorized events.
DONATE CALLING TIME
VFW Operation Uplink connects active-duty personnel and hospitalized veterans with family members through free phone time and VFW “Free Call Days.”
USO Operation Phone Home delivers prepaid international phone cards to deployed troops free of charge. The phone cards are distributed through USO centers overseas and, most often, are delivered directly to military units abroad.
Cell Phones for Soldiers accepts cell phone donations. The cell phones are sold to a company that recycles them. The proceeds are used to purchase calling cards and free phone service for deployed and returning military personnel. Since 2004, more than 168 million minutes of free talk time have assisted troops.
The Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) plays a key role in providing quality blood products for Service members and their families in both peace and war. As a joint operation among the military services (Army, Navy, Air Force), the ASBP has many components working together to collect, process, store, distribute, and transfuse blood worldwide.
DONATE READING MATERIALS
Operation Paperback collects gently used books nationwide and sends them to American troops overseas, as well as veterans and military families here at home. Since 1999, they have shipped over 1.9 million books to locations around the globe.
If you are curious about how you can get involved and support our military and their families in your own way, please see the resources at ourmilitary.mil and troopsupport.com that can help you get started right away!