This post was sponsored by the MetLife TRICARE Dental Program as part of an Ambassador Program for Influence Central.
Every day is a good time to thank our military members and their families, but the holiday season is an especially good time to say thank you. Being stationed far from extended family is difficult over the holidays and having the military member (mom or dad) deployed over the holidays is exceptionally hard on everyone in the family. I’m a military brat, a veteran and now the spouse of a military member, so I’d like to share some ideas of how to help a military family so that you can join me in showing our appreciation of our military families this holiday season and all year long.
I remember my father being deployed over the holidays and it was difficult. My mother did a wonderful job of making us feel safe and loved and of keeping our family traditions up, but we missed my dad a lot. Then as a military member myself, I was stationed far from family over the holidays. Even with video chats, email and social media, the holidays can be tough when mom or dad, husband or wife, son or daughter is deployed, especially over the holidays. It’s often most difficult for the spouse that is at home carrying all the weight of being mom and dad, all while stationed from from family and friends.
No military member or military family wants pity or is looking for thanks. But let’s stop a moment and think about what our military families do every single day so that we and our freedom are defended. And more than just stop to think about it, I ask you to join me in doing something to help a military family to say thank you for their service.
How to Help a Military Family
1. Take a moment to thank a service member and their family in person. I’m sure you know someone in your community that is serving their country. They never expect to be thanked, but please take the time to express your appreciation. If you feel uncomfortable verbalizing your thanks (maybe you get emotional like I do), print out these Thank a Veteran cards and write down something you’re thankful for and then hand the card to the service member.
2. Surprise a military family by helping. Shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, washing the car and so many other chores become overwhelming when either mom or dad is deployed. Take an hour or two and surprise a military family in your community by helping them with this chore.
3. Invite a military family over for dinner. It’s a wonderful gift to the family for them to get to know people in the community. It’s also a wonderful gift for the family when mom or dad is deployed. I can tell you from experience how much the break I got from cooking and entertaining my children meant to me when a friend invited us over every other Sunday for dinner. It was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries and keep me going strong while my husband was deployed.
4. Give a gift certificate of babysitting. It’s difficult finding a babysitter you trust when you’ve just moved to a new area. Give a military family the gift of babysitting for them while they learn their way around a new community. The gift of babysitting is especially treasured when mom or dad is deployed. With only one parent home and no family or friends to depend on, getting your hair cut, going to the dentist or doctor, taking care of legal documents or going to a PTA meeting becomes virtually impossible. You can use this free printable gift certificate to let a military family know how you’d like to help.
Finding the time to go to the doctor and dentist is important for the adult family members. They need to take care of themselves so that they can take care of the entire family. Military families are eligible for the MetLife Tricare Dental Program (TDP) network of over 250,000 dental locations worldwide. TDP beneficiaries are eligible to receive two routine dental cleanings, including fluoride treatments, in a consecutive 12-month period. National Guard and Reserve members enrolled in the TDP can have a network dentist complete the Department of Defense Active Duty/Reserve Forces Dental Examination form (DD Form 2813) at no cost. Learn more about the MetLife Tricare Dental Program on their website or by following them on Facebook.
5. Celebrate holidays and birthdays. The holidays and birthdays can be particularly lonely for a military family. Include them in your holiday celebrations. If mom or dad is deployed, do something special to help celebrate birthdays with the family.
6. Support the adults. It’s important for mom and dad to get some “me time” to recharge their batteries. It’s espccially difficult if one parent is deployed. Offer to babysit so that the adult can go do something fun and soul nourishing. Also, look for ways you can spend time watching a movie, a sports game, crafting or sharing an activity with the adult family members. The moms and dads in military families are used to sacrificing and will do everything for their children, often while neglecting themselves. Find a way to encourage them to nurture themselves, too.
7. Donate to charities that support military families. There are many wonderful charities that support military families. Find one or two charities and regularly donate to them as a way to support military families around the world. Some of my favorite charities that support military families are:
Fisher House – Best known as a network of comfort homes where military and veteran’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving medical treatment at military hospitals.
AnySoldier.com – Provides military member contacts who are overseas and list their needs and wants. You read through the names and stories they write and select ones you’d like to support.They have a search capability so you an easily identify units you’d like support.
USO – For nearly 75 years, the USO has been the nation’s leading organization to serve the men and women in the U.S. military, and their families, throughout their time in uniform. From the moment they join, through their assignments and deployments, and as they transition back to their communities.
Sew Much Comfort – Ships free adaptive clothing to military hospitals and veterans recovering at home. The adaptive clothing provides warm, comfortable adaptive clothing that fits properly over wounds, casts, fixator, prosthetics, etc. and allows the service member to wear normal looking clothing which enhances their recovery and provides comfort and dignity.
Air Force Aid Society – Helps Air Force members: travel to family funerals, fix their cars, pay rent or utilities, purchase special medical equipment, free child care, spouse employment training, baby gifts and pre-natal training classes, pre-paid phone cards for deployed airmen, free car safety inspections and oil changes for spouses of deployed airmen, education grants and loans.
Please join me in finding ways to support our military families. How do you help a military family? Please share your favorite charities that support military families in the comment.