Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Show Your Appreciation To Our Military Men and Women

May is Military Appreciation Month, or so my favorite radio station says. It is a great idea to take Memorial Day and extend it for a full month. For that matter, it ought to be 365 days a year.

Here are some things we all can and should do to show our troops that we really do support them:

If you are flying first class and a uniformed member of our armed forces boards the plane, give up your seat. He or she has given up a lot more protecting us.

If you happen to pass a service member on the street or at an airport, stop and shake the trooper’s hand, tell him or her thanks, say you appreciate the fact that they are protecting us here at home.

If you spot a military person at a restaurant, call the waiter over and say you’ll pick up the service member’s meal tab. I like to do this anonymously—first, because I am uncomfortable with being the object of gratitude from a person who has put his life on the line for me; and second, because if it is anonymous, it doesn’t put the military person on the spot and if his benefactor does not have a face, it becomes a gesture of appreciation from everyman. You will be surprised at the number of times this little gesture of appreciation sets off a light bulb in the mind of a restaurant owner. I remember after saying I would pay the tab of a big Marine sergeant in a soul food restaurant how the owner said he wanted to pick up half. I’ll bet that restaurant owner comps a soldier more than once in the future.

If you know of the family of a deployed military person in your area, see if they need help. Many people in the National Guard and Reserves take a pay cut when they serve their country and could use some help for their families. And believe me, as the son of a career Army officer, I know that family members of our men and women in uniform sacrifice just as much as their father, mother, sister or brother in the service does.

Adopt a deployed trooper. Better yet, get your company to adopt a unit. Where I work, we have adopted a number of units since 9/11 and it has been as good for us, in terms of team-building, just as much as it has been for the military folks to whom we’ve sent care packages. Individual employees buy all the items and the company, God bless it, pays the postage. As a result of this program, we have been able to meet some of the finest people on the planet and learn of their trials and tribulations in such a way that the war becomes much more real to us back at home. They are pretty magnificent, by the way. They make you proud to be an American. How do you find a unit to adopt? Ask around. You are sure to run into someone with a friend or relative in the service in Iraq or Afghanistan… or anywhere, for that matter. You need a contact who is willing to accept packages, and that is the way we’ve done it.

Help a wounded veteran. I remember buying tickets to my favorite country-western performer at a charity auction. I was all primed and ready to see him perform live, when my wife said, why don’t we give the tickets to a policeman or a soldier. She was right. I got in touch with the local Veterans Administration hospital and they have an office set up to accommodate just such an arrangement. Giving up something I wanted made it all the more sweet, because it was a personal sacrifice. A very small one, to be sure, compared to what the wounded veteran gave up for all of us.

Those are some suggestions. I am sure you can think of others. In showing support for the troops, you will be boosting their morale. And it will make you feel good inside because you will be doing something concrete to support the war effort.

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