Supporting Our Service Men and Women This Holiday Season

Andrew Hage

With the holidays just around the corner, we are crossing names off our shopping lists: mom, dad, sister, brother, grandparents, significant others, your neighbors’ dog. But the ones we tend to forget are the most important; they are more than 210,000 deployed U.S. Military service members in over 168 countries worldwide. Each year, they spend the holidays thousands of miles away from their friends, family and loved ones. We may honor them each time we see a waving American flag, but why not do something more this holiday season or better yet, perhaps on a regular basis.

The best ways to help our service men and women are to:

Send care packages

Care packages come in all shapes and sizes, from a personal thank you note to a wide array of goodies, and it is easy to create your own. Commonly requested items include all-purpose wipes, foot powder, batteries, puzzle books, deodorant, jerky, drink mix, socks, lip balm, sunscreen, phone cards, and instant coffee. You can see a complete list of most needed items on Packages from Home’s donation page. The company also includes a list for the military working dogs. Toys are always welcome, but remember that these dogs are big (70+ pounds) and that the products must be made in the USA.

Donate to organizations

Companies throughout the Valley are looking for volunteers to support these efforts. The United Service Organizations (USO) Arizona is always looking for people to help out at one of their centers. A Phoenix area 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Packages from Home, is the preferred care package assistance company in the Valley recommended by the USO. Their mission is to send care and comfort packages to deployed American military heroes stationed in active duty theaters around the world as well as to facilitate activities that elevate morale of all veterans.

Cell Phones for Soldiers is another 501(c)(3) non-profit charity organization for recycling cell phones or tablets. There are over 30 drop-off locations throughout the greater Phoenix area.

Christmas Spirit Foundation is an organization that helps get free Christmas trees to the families of service men and women. These trees are donated by civilians and can be delivered, free of charge, to military bases in time for the holidays. This foundation provides hundreds of Christmas trees each year for troops overseas that won’t be home for Christmas. It’s a great way to get spread the holiday spirit and help bring joy to those serving all around the globe. If you are interested in donating a tree or delivering trees, please visit the Christmas Spirit Foundation website.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) provides bereavement support following the death of a loved one in the military. A donation to TAPS supports military families during their time of greatest need. The company offers compassionate care to all those confounded by the loss of a loved one who died while serving in our Armed Forces or as a result of his or her service. Since 1994, TAPS has provided comfort and hope through a national peer support network and connection to grief resources, all at no cost to surviving families and loved ones. TAPS has assisted more than 90,000 surviving families, casualty officers, and caregivers.

If you are grieving the loss of a fallen service member, or if you know someone who can use their support, the TAPS 24/7 National Military Survivor Helpline is always available toll-free at 800-959-TAPS (8277). If TAPS’ mission to care for the families of America’s fallen heroes speaks to you, they welcome you to connect with them about giving, volunteering, professional engagement or careers. TAPS is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) Veterans Service Organization and is not part of, or endorsed by, the Department of Defense.

Get involved

Another way to help our service members and their families is to participate in Wreaths Across America. On Saturday, December 14, 2019 at 10:00 a.m., Wreaths Across America will be at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Marana, AZ to remember and honor our veterans. They will be laying Remembrance Wreaths on the graves of our country’s fallen heroes, saying the name of each and every veteran aloud. Volunteers are welcome. Staging starts at 8:00 a.m. to get the wreaths ready for the ceremony.

Some CAC students got involved without even leaving the campus. On Thursday, November 7th, 2019, the Blue Star Mothers of Maricopa, a private nonprofit organization that provides support for mothers who have sons or daughters in active service in the U.S. Armed Forces, hosted an event on the Maricopa Campus where members of the school and community came together and assembled multiple care packages and signed Holiday cards to send to our troops abroad.