Growing up in a military community has instilled in me a deeper appreciation for our service members. Being the daughter and now wife of a soldier has shown me exactly what sacrifices military families go through. Today’s youth has a general idea of what our military does (Protecting our freedom, deploys to a war zone, moves to different areas every few years), but they don’t fully understand what that lifestyle entails. This is completely understandable, especially if they are not exposed to military members in their community. Our service members put their lives on the line for us, and they continue to support and serve our nation. I believe that giving our youth a better understanding of what our military members (and their families) do and go through will give them a deeper appreciation for our men and women in uniform. Many Girl Scout and Boy Scout groups dedicate volunteer hours to the military. In fact, the annual fundraisers for by both organizations raise significant funds that are contributed to the military. Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts sell popcorn, and product equaling 25% of total sales is donated to area veterans organizations, military families, and shipped to deployed military overseas. During cookie season, Girl Scouts collect donations for Cookie Shares, and the total amount is dedicated to sending cookies to local military and food pantries. Here are a few other ways that youth groups can volunteer their time to show their appreciation for the military community.
Letters To Deployed Service Members
Letters to our military members was the first idea that came to mind. I’ve had the pleasure to speak with several soldiers that had received letters from children while they were deployed. They said that even though the children did not know them personally, it was nice to feel that they were being appreciated back home. One soldier had said that some of the letters were so touching they made him tear up. They reminded him of why he joined the military…to serve and to protect the country he loves so much. These letters not only help the ones receiving them, but also the youth that are writing them. The children will have a better understanding of what our military members do. Hopefully they will also learn to appreciate and admire them more. The service members receiving the letters are reminded of what their purpose is and how much they are appreciated.
Special Celebration Meals
My hometown would throw special events for the active duty and veterans in our area. This was a great way for our community to come together. For example, every year on July 4th, our neighborhood fire station and elementary schools would come together and have a free pancake breakfast for our service members. It was a great way for the children to meet our men and women in uniform and ask them questions. What I enjoyed seeing was when the younger service members would talk to veterans/retirees. They would share stories and the veterans would pass along advice that they learned throughout their years serving.
Sending Care Packages
Care packages are a great way to support our service members that are overseas. Being deployed is hard, especially since they are away from family members and friends. Care packages are great because they give our military members a little piece of home. Sending food, snacks to even basic toiletries can make a huge impact and can be extremely helpful.
Visiting Veterans At A Hospital/VA Retirement Home
Spending time in a retirement home taught me many things, and one of those things were that veterans have some of the best stories. Veterans and retirees have seen the world change and it’s nice to hear about their experiences. Many of them in retirement homes enjoy sharing what they’ve seen and gone through. In my opinion, this is one of the best ways to learn history…hearing it from people that were actually there, experiencing it firsthand. This is a great interaction between two completely different generations and can be a great learning opportunity for everyone involved. The younger generation can even give a quick tutorial on social media.
Baking For Our Troops
It’s a pretty well-known fact that sugar breeds happiness. Why not share some baked goods with your nearest military installation? Instead of doing a bake sale, maybe drop off some cookies and cupcakes around lunch time and call it “Baked Mail”. This is a thoughtful and sweet way to show your appreciation for our service members.
Welcome Home Signs
Reach out to your nearest military installation and see if they’ll inform you when a unit will be returning from a deployment. Then make welcome home signs and post them outside of the base/post. Seeing those signs on on the way home after being away in a war zone helps make the homecoming even more exciting.
A Simple Thank You
Showing appreciation doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. A simple “thank you” can go a long way. The next time you see men and women in uniform, thank them for their service. It lets them know that they are appreciated for what they’re doing for our country.
Serving our country takes much dedication and loyalty. Our service members and their families go through situations that other families will never experience and understand. Imagine going through a 6-12 month period where you leave your family and friends behind, not knowing if you’ll be coming home. Now imagine getting a phone call in the middle of the night to go into work because something came up last minute that needed to get taken care of. These are only some of the things our service members go through. They are constantly training and preparing for war. Always ensuring they are prepared to protect our nation when the time calls.
Service members don’t have the normal 9-5 job, and don’t get paid overtime if they work until 10 pm. They work until their boss/commander say it’s time to go home. They don’t get to go on vacation whenever they want, and they can’t always visit family or friends, especially if they live far away from them. They aren’t only making sacrifices while they’re deployed, but also during their daily schedule.
Many people don’t know about this side of the military. This is completely understandable because they aren’t exposed to this lifestyle. That is why it’s important to educate our youth about our military. We need to explain to them how lucky we are to have individuals who protect and serve our country. Doing this will instill in our youth the importance of our different branches of service, and it will give them an appreciation for our men and women who put that uniform on every single day.