This weekend, many of us will gather together with family. We will give gifts to those who are important to us. We will hug those loved ones that we do not have the opportunity to see very often. We will gather together around the dinner table to reflect on the year behind us. We will sit together in the pews of our churches participating in candlelight Christmas Eve services. We will bundle in coats and scarves and go around our neighborhoods singing Christmas carols for our neighbors. We will serve hot chocolate with extra marshmallows to our grandchildren.
But all across the nation, there will be family members who are missing, where an empty seat is found at the dinner table or a Skype conversation takes the place of a hug. While troops serving in Iraq were able to make it home for the holidays, many of our troops are still serving overseas separated from loved ones this holiday. And even for those who are fortunate to be home with their families, there are certainly times that they remember having been away from their families during the holidays.
This year, as you celebrate the joy and peace of the season, take a moment to reflect on the men and women who serve our nation and who sacrifice so much to defend our freedoms. The following resources provide opportunities to show gratitude for members of our Armed Forces.
Send a Care Package.
While it is too late to send a care package to our troops that will make it overseas by Christmas, these packages can bring holiday cheer long after the day has passed. The Department of Defense has provided this list of organizations that arrange care packages to be sent to troops overseas throughout the year. Consider sending a care package as a way to start off the new year. http://www.ourmilitary.mil/care-packages/
Send a Message to Our Troops.
This interactive map allows you to show your appreciation for members of our military. You can post a message of support to a particular region, as well as read other messages of support in your region. http://www.uso.org/thanks/
Provide a Christmas Tree to Say “Thanks.”
As a way to say thanks to our military families, Trees for Troops provides over 17,000 freshly cut Christmas trees each year to over sixty military bases throughout the U.S. and overseas. http://www.christmasspiritfoundation.org/programs/trees4troops/home.htm
Volunteer to Help Veterans.
If you want to give your time and talents to support the care of America's veterans, use this form to complete a volunteer application and be contacted by a local Veterans’ Affairs Voluntary Service representative. http://www.volunteer.va.gov/apps/VolunteerNow/
This Christmas season, I hope you will take time to reflect on the ways you and your family can show gratitude and encouragement to those who are in need – to remember those who are serving our country, to serve those who are sick, and to show gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy as a nation.