Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day and beyond

Gold Star
I liked the Major League Baseball uniforms today, camouflage trim and hats for Memorial Day. Not the look--it was out of place, I think--but the message of support for military families. The Red Sox had a ceremony at the beginning of the game for the Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Wives in the area, most of whom seemed to come after attending parades and other events honoring their loved ones who died while serving on active duty. One of the mothers interviewed said the Red Sox front office is always very supportive of their groups, which offer grief counseling and support, lobbying for military families, wreaths and flags for cemeteries, license plates and other benefits and honors. The cover story of USA Today this weekend focused on three boys who were in grammar school on 9/11 but because the war in Afghanistan has so far lasted 12 years, those boys grew up, and served, and died, and their families are now Gold Star families. They are amazingly articulate, and brave, and average, and proud, and sad, as should we all be. Though our collective grief and understanding and commitment is not always evident.  Military charities are not well-funded, and the needs of veterans and military families are not well-known or well-met.

USA Today cover story, 05/24/2013
President and First Lady spent the day with Gold Star families, first at a breakfast at the White House and then an afternoon service at Arlington National Cemetery. In his remarks at that ceremony, President Obama made this point by stating the following:

"Today most Americans are not directly touched by war," Obama said during a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
"As a consequence, not all Americans may always see or fully grasp the depth of sacrifice, the profound costs that are made in our name — right now, as we speak, every day,'' he said.
I think this is true. Those people I know who are committed to supporting veterans and military families are deeply committed, because they see the need and respond with every resource they can muster. They often know people in military personally, and know their problems and challenges in detail. Those who do not--they do little or nothing. It's an odd mix of total support and token support. But there are enough charities out there now for everyone to find one to support. Here are a few, and then a link to find others:

Operation Homefront  meets the needs of active military, veterans and their families both in housing and home-related needs like a car, home repair, kitchen supplies, and food. There are individual needs listed, by state. The average grant made by the organization to a family is 400 essential dollars.

Honor Flight  is devoted to bringing World War II veterans to Washington to see their memorial. They do so in groups, and provide bus and hotels for several days. Begun in 2006, they've so far transported over 100,000 veterans, and have a wait list that is fighting against time, since 800 WWII vets die every day. But they're trying their hearts out to get them all to Washington. They have groups arriving nearly every day (here is their flight schedule) but need help to do more.

The Wounded Warrior Project is focused upon recent veterans injured in action, whose numbers are huge:

 In Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, for every US soldier killed, seven are wounded. Combined, over 48,000 servicemen and women have been physically injured in the recent military conflicts.

In addition to the physical wounds, it is estimated as many as 400,000 service members live with the invisible wounds of war including combat-related stress, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 320,000 are believed to have experienced a traumatic brain injury while on deployment.

The Wounded Warrior Project sponsors 8k runs, Soldier Rides and other fundraisers to provide prosthetics, job training, support and connection for wounded soldiers and support staff. They give backpacks of supplies to every injured soldier who returns to the U.S. for medical treatment. They're a new group (founded in 2003) to try to meet the vast and overwhelming needs of some of our recent veterans.

Sew Much Comfort replaces hospital gowns with adaptive clothing using Velcro as needed to give recovering military personnel more personal choice and dignity both within the hospital and when they return home. It is essential for those who have lost limbs, and relies heavily upon volunteer sewers.

Veterans' Voices supports the creative and individual expression of both active military and veterans about their experiences. Through the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project you can help an injured or ailing veteran document what they saw, heard, thought and felt through your scribing, or helping them record their story. The group publishes some of the works, and archives the rest. They are looking for volunteers to work with a local VA to reach out to the hospitalized veterans, as well as funds to support their work. is a centralized registry where you can look at what deployed soldiers are requesting, individually or in groups. They want letters, and emails, and prayers, and care boxes. Clif Bars are often requested, and energy drinks you can pour into water. One guy requested Muscle Milk, not for himself but his buddies who don't get care packages. One sergeant sought personal hygiene products for several female soldiers in his unit, including shampoo that smells good to cheer them up. A group of guys want socks, and shaving cream,and disposable razors, and M & M's and Starburst. One group asked for used DS's or other handhelds, and games. Another contact listed this:

we are in a flight company we need snacks, energy drinks for long flights. Something easy such as dry snacks and coffee for early mornings. also baby wipes would be useful. sudoku and crossword puzzles for down time. 

Coffee. For a pilot on a long flight.
It doesn't seem like a lot to ask.
I'm on it :)

Other charities can be found here on

Love, Lisa

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