Lend a Hand to Your Troops
Rookie volunteers Jay Edwards and Marian Chirichella walked into Ward 57 of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2003 expecting assignments like "passing out socks." But what they saw inside the Army amputee ward changed their lives. "A young girl was sitting with her father, rubbing what was left of his legs and saying, 'He's still my Daddy,'" recalls Edwards.
The couple were so struck by the paucity of services for vets and their families that they quit their day jobs (as a computer consultant and market researcher, respectively) and launched their own crusade. Now, they deliver groceries weekly and provide clothing and comfort items to wounded soldiers.
During past wars, more American families had someone in the service. Now, there are fewer young men and women in uniform, and the burden of wounded troops rests on fewer shoulders. Add to the Iraq legacy the aging veterans from past wars, and the need becomes acute.
What to do? You can help in myriad ways. The Fisher House Foundation builds homes--35 around the world so far--for wounded veterans. Groups like the USO and the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes organize entertainment events and provide monetary and housing assistance to military families. And there are countless community groups; in some cases, local newspaper notices solicit helping hands.
"All kinds of donations are welcome; anyone can now donate their unused frequent flier miles to military families, who regularly incur debts traveling to see loved ones," says Jim Weiskopf, a spokesman for the Fisher House Foundation.
Traditional groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars help soldiers still in the field, donating VCRs and DVD players and distributing phone cards to veterans' families. Disabled American Veterans has some 10,000 volunteers driving elderly veterans to their medical appointments. If you want to help veterans, Edward Hartman of Disabled American Veterans suggests contacting your local Veterans Administration facility. And not just over the holidays. "These guys are wounded all year long," says Jay Edwards. "Make sure that you are giving whenever you can."
This story appears in the December 25, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.