During a season of holiday cheer, many military families experience profound loneliness and hardship. Military spouses have to take care of the kids and home on their own while their husband or wife is deployed. They may live far away from extended family. Add financial stress to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for a difficult holiday season.
In between holiday parties, shopping, meal planning, and other seasonal activities, lend a hand to the families of those that serve. Even small gestures can make a huge difference in the lives of military families.
Here’s how to help service members and their families have a merrier military Christmas.
1. Help Santa Claus
There are many organizations that provide Christmas gifts to military families during the holiday season. One of the most well-known is the Armed Services YMCA’s Operation Holiday Joy. When you donate to the organization, your gift ensures families in need receive Christmas gifts to put under the tree, or a food basket for the dinner table.
Another option is Operation Homefront, which partners with Dollar Tree to provide toys for military children. The organization also hosts holiday meal events during the season for active duty, wounded, ill, injured, and other military members and their families.
Meanwhile, in San Antonio, Texas—home to multiple US military bases—Adopt a Hero for Christmas collects Christmas gifts and needed items at the Brooke Army Medical Center. During Christmas, volunteers deliver the gifts and visit with families. The organization accepts unwrapped gifts for wounded soldiers, spouses, and children.
Education is perhaps one of the best gifts you can give, as it keeps on giving. The Folds of Honor Foundation provides education to spouses and children of soldiers lost or severely disabled during service, making it an excellent organization to support on behalf of military families no matter what time of year. CORT Furniture Rental has proudly partnered with the organization since 2012, helping many military families achieve their educational goals.
2. Adopt a Military Member or Family
Got an extra seat at the table? Invite a military member for dinner. If you live near San Diego, the MCAS Miramar Enlisted Recreation Center runs a program called Home for the Holidays, which coordinates the placement of single service members into the homes of San Diego County families.
Also in California, Operation Christmas Spirit “adopts” more than 100 military families and fulfills their Christmas wishes. The organization provides gifts and gifts cards to families as well as single service members. The organization also sponsors gifts and crafts at unit holiday parties. Donate money and gift cards, or host a toy drive to help.
3. Help with Food and Daily Expenses
The average American will spend about $700 this year on Christmas. Military families often have trouble covering regular expenses, much less holiday gifts. If you know military members, then you can take matters into your own hands with a well-timed gift of money or food.
If you don’t, the Red Cross provides financial assistance deployment services year-round, but if you’re hoping to assist specifically with family holiday expenses, then Pay Away the Layaway allows you to pay off a family’s layaway balance of gifts for their children.
4. Support Lonely Troops
Military members often celebrate holidays with their unit, leaving them missing their families. Full Circle Home gives service men and women a chance to send a gift package to their sweethearts back home.
Through Any Soldier, you can send a care package to one of the hundreds of thousands of active service members around the world. Use the website to find a service member, what they need, and how to send it.
For more holiday giving resources, visit Operation We Are Here, which provides resources for the military community and its supporters. You can also contact your nearest USO location to find out how you can help.
5. Be a Good Neighbor
Do you live near a military family? Don’t be shy. A husband or wife separated from their spouse during the holidays likely feels lonely, overwhelmed, and worried. Help them feel less isolated by doing one or more of the following:
- Offer to watch their kids for an afternoon or evening.
- Invite the family for dinner (or bring dinner to them).
- Treat the whole family to a fun seasonal activity in your town.
- Invite a military spouse over for coffee.
- Start a social media fundraiser to lessen their financial worries.
The holidays are a time to focus on family, and a time for giving. However, for some the season can be fraught with difficulties. Follow these tips to help make sure our military service members feel the love this holiday season.