I consider myself a well-seasoned military spouse. My salt and pepper roots are not just owed to genetics but also in part to having spent more than a decade married to a military man. From moving year after year to deploying to switching schools/activities/doctors, stress is part of the job — not just for the active duty member.
My family has experienced all these things and more, so I have learned a lot about the military way of life, but I recently discovered something new: On Fridays we wear red.
Not really. This isn’t the military’s version of “Mean Girls” where only a select few are invited to the lunch table and on certain days of the week we unite by wearing patriotic garb.
I’m talking about #RedFriday. In an effort to show support for deployed service members, people have started wearing red on Fridays. They also share photos, illustrations, and words of encouragement on social media to show they “Remember Everyone Deployed.”
According to NPR, the number of military personnel make up less than one percent of the population (2,266,883 personnel out of 309 million people in 2010). That’s a pretty exclusive club! However, each one of those men and women have family — moms, dads, spouses, brothers, sisters, and cousins who also are impacted by the hardships that come from that person’s service.
We wait for them. We grieve with them. We support them.
If you are one of those people, sit down at the lunch table with me. Let’s talk!
While wearing red or patriotic apparel is great to show your love of country, might I recommend some additional ways to show you “Remember Everyone Deployed”?
Send care packages!
There are many websites dedicated to this form of support. You don’t even have to have a special service member in mind. The Red Cross and USO are reputable places to start. They have mailing addresses and lists of recommended items for care packages for deployed soldiers. They also are reputable organizations to donate to if you want to help with relief efforts from the impact of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Contributions to the USO will go directly toward service men and women (and their families) deployed to the Gulf region.
The USO has a special place in my heart, as I have visited a handful of their offices in airports over the years. The first hug I received in the States upon our return home from a 3.5 year tour in Italy was from a friendly stranger volunteering her time handing out water at the USO in Baltimore. Her kindness brought me to tears. That, OR it could have been the exhaustion from two, back-to-back international flights with 8-month-old twins, a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old, but I digress. I still remember that hug. I don’t know if she was wearing red, but her support was obvious through her involvement with the USO.
The USO has its own social media campaign called #Flex4Forces. The campaign calls on all Americans to show their strength as a “Force Behind the Forces” by striking a biceps flex in support of our nation’s military and sharing it on social media. It’s a fun and friendly way to show your support.
Now, here’s the real challenge – take a break from social media and actively seek out those service men and women, deployed or not.
Show you care by taking the time to talk to service members young and old. Have coffee with a friend whose service member is deployed.
High five a military kid.
Organize a fundraiser to raise money to purchase care package items.
10 More Organizations and/or Ways to Get Involved:
1. The USO is a nonprofit organization providing care packages, entertainment and recreation-type services to military members and their families since 1941. You can help by donating money, volunteering your time, corporate partnering and fundraising.
2. Donate to the Fisher House Foundation, which supports wounded, injured and ill service members.
3. Send expired coupons to Active Duty military personnel and their families with Support Our Troops. Military family members stationed in overseas locations are allowed to use coupons up to 6 months past their expiration date at commissaries and this helps reduce that financial burden.
4. Donate by adding cash to your Girl Scout Cookie order. Your girl scout could earn a badge and the troops will benefit, too.
5. Hope for the Warriors aids those who sustained physical and psychological wounds in the line of duty.
6. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IVAVA) provides new Veterans with health, education and employment support.
7. Homes for Our Troops builds mortgage-free and specially adapted houses for those with multiple amputations and for veterans with traumatic brain injuries.
8. Donate to the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust (DAV).
9. Soldiers’ Angels offers a variety of ways to give back to Veterans, Deployed, Wounded and Family members.
10. Thanks USA is a fairly new organization that distributes need-based college, technical and vocational school scholarships to the children and spouses of Active Duty U.S. military members.
There are many ways to show your support for troops home and abroad. Any day that you can volunteer your time, resources or words of encouragement, your effort is appreciated. We welcome the support!
So pull up a chair! We want to have you eat lunch with us every day for the rest of the week, every week.