5 Ways to Support Military Nieces and Nephews This July 4
Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By Shawn Blackhawk
Growing up in America's Heartland, Shawn Blackhawk used her poetry from an early age to express herself. Her philosophy has always been: "I'll try anything once." She uses her words like a brush, painting vivid pictures, evoking as much emotion from her readers as she can. She appreciates struggles, as they pave the road to triumph, and firmly believes that the darkest parts of the human mind and soul are the only way to eventually celebrate the light. She has been recognized for Illuminating Digital Publishing Excellence by Jenkins Group (eLit Awards) and was the 2011 Silver Medal Finalist for the Electronically Published Internet Collation (EPIC Awards). Shawn's poetry book can be purchased at L-Book.com.
With the U.S. having 737 bases and close to 3,000 ships of all sizes, shapes and designations, there’s a good chance you have a niece, nephew, or Godchild serving our country in some capacity. It’s also a possibility that they could be attached with a civilian division of the Department of Defense. These outstanding young people have all chosen to put their lives on hold to ensure the safety of our country and to preserve the ideals that are the foundation of America.
As aunts, we worry about our “kids” when they are shipped out. It’s natural to want to talk to them every day and ensure that wherever they are, they are safe. And I can assure you, that the feeling is mutual. I don’t care how old I am, wherever I am in the world; if I’m having a bad day, I want my mom or dad. I long for a call home and a chat with my sister and brother to find out how my nieces and nephews are doing. It’s hard though when you are on active duty status. Your time isn’t your own, and methods of communication can be limited.
To celebrate the July 4th holiday, I’ve comprised a list to help the other aunts and uncles or their friends who want to help show their support for our troops. Whether it’s your kin, or a friend’s child who is serving, there are lots of ways you can help ease the worry and make a difference. If you don’t have anyone who is on active duty, you can still make a soldier’s, marine’s, sailor’s, or pilot’s life a little brighter. So before you hit the big sales, light the grill, or have a few beers, take a few minutes. Believe me. The difference you’ll make can never be measured.
1. Write a letter. It may take some time to get there, but when it does, it’s the greatest feeling on the planet. The second you hear your name called, it doesn’t matter what’s going on. Your step is lighter, and you find yourself smiling. A letter from home, from an Aunt or Uncle is a Godsend. Letters from complete strangers, thanking you for your service? Amazing.
In the digital world, we find that Tweeting, Facebooking, or sending a quick email is easier. Easier isn’t always better. We’ve lost the art of letter writing, and that’s really sad. Visit your local historical society and look at the letters they have from our past wars. Letters from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World Wars I and II are some of the most moving pieces you’ll ever see. I urge you to pick up a pen and challenge yourself to write a letter to your niece, nephew, or a complete stranger. A bond will be formed that is strong, honest, and worth it. If you know of someone who wants to write a letter to thank a soldier, send them to: http://militarypenpal.tripod.com/.
2. Call your cell phone company and ask if you can donate your extra minutes or buy some minutes for the Call Home project. These minutes are divided amongst the branches and personnel which allows them to call home. Otherwise, the cost is on us. International rates are hideous and make for very short, very infrequent calls home. Having the ability to call home and talk to our parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, husbands and wives, or our own nieces and nephews, brings tears to even the most hardened Devil Dog, Navy Seal, Special Ops, and fighter Pilot alike. It gives the family a chance to connect to civilization and reminds us of what we are fighting for.
3. Give C.H.O.M.P. a try at http://www.chompforvets.org/. They help hook civilians up with soldiers. This way, you can find a soldier who needs someone to talk to, exchange letters with, or you can send care packages through them. When I say that being in the desert and getting a package that contains foot powder, flea powder and collars, batteries, deodorant, and sweets is like Christmas, I’m not kidding. Sand fleas have excruciating bites, and the dryness that can be relieved with medicated foot powder makes wearing combat boots a bit more tolerable. If you can find the scarves that stay cool once wet, those quickly become prized possessions. Cough drops help combat the dryness of the desert air. Bandanas are a blessing during the frequent sand storms. Family or stranger, sending care packages is an incredible gift to the person who receives it.
4. Go to your local V.A., and ask if you can volunteer. Vets, who have been discharged for medical reasons, grievous injury, PTSD, or scheduled discharge, often feel as if they have been transplanted to a foreign country and time. Getting situated back into society is always easier with support. While they may have family helping them readjust, some don’t. If you do this while waiting for your loved one to come home, it helps you better understand what they’ve been going through. Even if your niece or nephew comes home in one piece, they need your support. Personnel, who are at the local V.A., need that support too. Find out where you can volunteer. Read to a bedridden patient. Coordinate with the V.A., and throw welcome home parties to returning soldiers. The V.A. is always willing to help both the community and the service members. And once your family member has come home, don’t stop. Keep giving, and keep making a difference to those that need you. Being “adopted” by a complete stranger has made big differences in the way a soldier adapts to being home.
5. Check out www.greenbeanscoffee.com/coj. Green Beans has started a program to bring a Cup of Joe to a Joe. (Check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cupofjoeforajoe.) They have stations throughout the Mid East, providing coffee and coffee drinks to the military. For $2.00, you can donate a cup of coffee and send a note. If you know where your niece or nephew is stationed, imagine the joy they would get from you buying them a cup of coffee and sending a note saying you love them. Get your friends together, your church or book club together and have a bake sale or special collection at church to raise money and send coffee to a unit. This organization is a welcome respite from the usual coffee that’s served. Green Beans is truly a great company has made an amazing difference to thousands of service members.
So while you are grilling with friends, enjoying a cold beer, or shopping this Independence Day, take a moment to think of your family member who is overseas. Send a thought out into the universe, say a prayer, and give thanks to those who have ensured your ability to be free. And never forget that the support of aunts and uncles, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives means everything to those in uniform.
Published: June 29, 2012