In 1993, the Armed Services YMCA established Military Appreciation Month as a way to honor the sacrifices and commitment of our nation's military families. Now each November, all branches of the military, the government and countless military organizations help take part by hosting special observances, family nights, sporting events and dinners. Participating in these events is a great way to show appreciation for our armed forces and their families. However, if you don't live near an installation, here are some things you can do to support your the military families in your community.
1. Encourage your workplace to be military friendly.
If you own a business or work in your company's human resources department, consider hiring a veteran. Not only is this a great way to show appreciation for his or her service, you'll also gain a highly skilled, motivated, and loyal employee. The Military Family Research Institute puts it best: "Employers understand the benefits of hiring veterans, and report that veteran employees demonstrate a strong sense of responsibility, project follow-through, and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to work under pressure. More than 81 percent of military jobs have a direct civilian equivalent."
To hire a qualified veteran, reach out to organizations like Military Veterans Resource Center or Volunteers of America. The staff will be able to connect you with a veteran who has the skills you're looking for.
2. Volunteer your time.
When a spouse, child, or sibling deploys, the family dynamic is disrupted. For those who remain behind, developing and managing a new routine becomes a difficult and stressful task. Volunteering your time is a great way to help out and show your appreciation for families experiencing a deployment. If you're a friend, neighbor, or fellow church member, offer to make dinner or babysit the kids for a night so the spouse can relax or take care of errands. If your children are classmates with military kids, volunteer to carpool if they live nearby. These may seem like small gestures, but your actions will help the spouse breathe easier and let the family know you're there if they need you. According to MFRI, "These small gestures bring a sense of security and allow the family to minimize any potential crisis situations through pre-planning."
3. Support the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit created an incentive for businesses to employ veterans by providing a federal tax credit of up to $9,600 per qualified veteran hired. However, the WOTC expired on Dec. 31, 2013, and the Tax Extenders Bill, which would renew the WOTC, has yet to be passed. Forbes contributor Kelly Phillips Erb recommends you to write your Senators and Representatives and ask for their support of the WOTC. This will let your representatives know their constituents are concerned about veterans employment issues and can help influence them to take action on the bill. Not to mention, voicing your support for the WOTC can help veterans make a smoother transition into the civilian workplace.
4. Make a donation.
Donating to a non-profit organization or a charity is one of the quickest and easiest ways to show appreciation for a military family. Whether you donate clothes, food, money, or an old car, you're giving back to the families who have made incredible sacrifices for our country. No matter how small, every type of donation makes a difference. Courtesy of Military.com, here's a comprehensive list of organizations and charities that assist veterans and military families.
5. Organize or participate in community events.
According to a report published by MFRI, in a 2012 survey, 41 percent of military families said they did not feel their community "embraced opportunities" to support military children. To help close the barrier between military families and their towns, community leaders could organize events in support of the families if their town does not yet have any events in place. For example, around this time of year, some cities host fun runs or community dinners. Many local businesses also offer military discounts in November to show appreciation for military families' service. The event does not have to be expensive or elaborate, but it should offer space for community members to demonstrate their support for local military families.
At MVRC, we--and many others--agree people should take time to appreciate military families any time of year. However, Military Appreciation Month is a great way for the entire country to collectively recognize the daily sacrifices military families. If you have military family in your life, hopefully this list will give you some ideas on how you can let them know you appreciate them.