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Today's Family Magazine

11 ways your family can salute a veteran

By Christa Melnyk Hines

During this month of Thanksgiving, don't forget our military service members. Many organizations and veterans groups offer ways to help support and show gratitude to members of the armed forces. Help a veteran, a deployed service member and military families know that you appreciate their sacrifices. Here's how:

1) Help an expectant military mom.  Nothing relieves a soldier's worries than knowing his family is supported back home.  Soldiers' Angels Baby Brigade (formerly Operation Top Knot), an organization started by college student Audri Cid in 2003, is a nationwide network of individuals who sew, knit and create gift baskets to support new and expectant mothers whose husbands are deployed.  To donate baby blankets, diapers, bottles, clothing and other items, visit

2) Write a letter.  Remind veterans and their families that you're thinking about them and appreciate their commitment to our nation.  Write a letter to a deployed soldier, a wounded warrior or a veteran who has served in past wars through or a military family through Operation Appreciation sponsored by Blue Star Families,

3) Support their furry friends.  Raise money to go toward fostering pets of active duty service members, wounded warriors and homeless veterans.  Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet is a non-profit organization that finds qualified foster families to care for pets while soldiers are deployed or when military families transfer overseas.  The foster families also care for pets whose warriors have died.  Visit for more info.

4) Contribute to Paralyzed Veterans of America.  This organization supports veterans who suffer from a spinal cord injury.  Participate in one of the organization's sporting events or fundraisers, make a monetary donation or collect and donate bags of clothing, shoes, belts, hats, books, CDs and small household goods.  For more information, visit

5) Assist disabled and wounded veterans. Volunteer at your local Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital or help disabled veterans whether running errands, doing yard work or assisting them with transportation.  Contact for more information.  Also, check out the Wounded Warrior Project for other ways to help injured service members.

6) Help them call home.  Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) supports and assists military veterans and their families through a variety of programs, including Operation Uplink.  The program enables service members and hospitalized veterans to make free calls back home to loved ones for three days each month.  Go to to find out how you can make a donation.

7) Aid service dogs.  PatriotPaws trains dogs to serve disabled veterans.  You can volunteer to help the organization by bathing and walking dogs, running errands or fundraising. For more information visit

8) Clip coupons.  Don't toss your expired coupons!  Military families stationed overseas can use coupons for up to six months past the expiration dates.  Visit for drop-off sites or to find out where to mail your coupons.

9) Donate DVDs. DVDS4Vets is a nonprofit organization started by Dr. Richard Landis, an orthopedic surgeon who helped build clinics in Afghanistan, and James F. Nicholson, who served as an Air Force pilot in Korea between 1950 and 1953.  Landis and Nicholson saw a need to provide basic entertainment for veterans who returned home with traumatic brain injuries and other serious wounds and were undergoing long-term rehabilitation.  To donate used or new DVDs to veterans, visit

10) Send a care package.  Soldiers who are serving far from home look forward to receiving mail.  Visit to learn how to send a letter and what is appropriate for care packages.  If you'd like to help support a veteran who does not have family to assist in the transition to home and civilian life, check out the Adopt a Veteran program through  Those who volunteer to be an Adopting Angel make a 12-month commitment to send a letter each week and a small gift once a month, tailored to the individual veteran's specific needs.

11) Say thank you.  If you see a soldier in uniform or a veteran, a simple "thank you for your service" is a considerate way to express your gratitude.  For more ways to thank a vet, visit

Christa Melnyk Hines, daughter of retired USAF SMSgt. Walter Melnyk, is thankful for all of our veterans and their families for their sacrifices and service.

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