This is Memorial Day weekend. While we will mostly be using this as a day off to recharge the batteries before the end of school and the summer vacation season, it’s also a time to remember all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms so that you (and me, too) can barbecue ribs on the grill with friends and family while watching the Chicago Cubs begin their homestand against some solid contenders.
Nobody that I know of actually died in combat, though several of my wife’s relatives served in the armed forces during major conflicts such as World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Memorial Day is unique in that we’re not thanking the veterans who served per se, but to honor the departed. I cannot even begin to fathom what it’s like to lose a loved one in war; the only personal tragedy I’ve experienced firsthand that was impactful was when my wife’s grandmothers and aunt died in recent years. My own grandfather died just last year, and I couldn’t go to the memorial service. I’ve had an uncle die a few years back that I wasn’t particularly close to and a cousin-in-law (I guess that’s how you label the guy who was married to my cousin?) died just a few days ago. But nothing has ever prepared me for the kind of personal tragedy that my wife experienced firsthand, and that’s probably way far away from what the widows and widowers of fallen soldiers have to experience. So I’m hardly an expert on this.
However, I think of myself as an empathetic person and I try to determine how best to help folks. Instead of blowing a whistle or party favor and flying the American flag just for kicks, how about raising some funds for the surviving family members of the departed? I’m sure the survivors are honored by all the well wishes and what not, but often times what they need goes far beyond condolences. They need help paying the bills. They need to send the kids to college. They may even need a place to live.
So I started searching on the internet for charities that help not just the families of departed soldiers, but also the living. I’m talking about soldiers that just returned from deployment, and whether disabled or not, need some form of assistance or other for themselves or their families. In some cases, you can help currently deployed soldiers. If you want to help me help them, let’s try donating through the following channels (h/t veterans Mercurial Outfielder and WSD’s Andy for some of these suggestions):
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS): This is a helpline that offers grief counseling and other resources for survivors of fallen soldiers.
- Fisher House Foundation: Provides no-cost housing for veteran families while wounded soldiers receive treatment and recover.
- Operation Homefront: Helps military personnel and families get relief during times of crisis.
- National Military Family Association: all manners of help for military families.
- Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust: “The DAV Charitable Service Trust supports physical and psychological rehabilitation programs that provide direct service to ill, injured, or wounded veterans.”
- Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA): “Our mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. We address critical issues facing new veterans and their families, including mental health injuries, a stretched VA system, inadequate health care for female veterans and GI Bill educational benefits.”
- American Gold Star Mothers: Honoring the memory of veterans through service to veterans and patriotic events.
I’m sure there are plenty more, but this is a good start if you really want to do something impactful this weekend to celebrate Memorial Day. Thanks for reading.