Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Saying Thank You to our Troops!!

I was recently contacted for an iVillage.com Memorial Day interview by Cynthia Ramnarace on “How to Approach Military to Show Your Appreciation”…since only a portion appeared, here it is in it’s entirety: 

I see a soldier in uniform and really want to say, “thank-you.” Is it rude to just walk up to him? And what’s the best way to word my appreciation?

I find it an honor to be able to personally thank our brave servicemen and women who put themselves in harm’s way to defend our hard fought freedom.  No matter where I am, I will approach our military members and whole-heartedly thank them for their service to our country and say how much we appreciate their sacrifice.  Most often, they are touched and surprised, and I know I have left them with that little sparkle of gratitude that they will carry with them.  

The best way to word your appreciation is by simply saying what comes to your heart. If you start with, “Excuse me, I just wanted you to know how much I (or my family and I) appreciate your service to our country. Thank you.” Anything else you want to add is up to you. 

On a recent trip through Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, a small unit of soldiers were waiting to deploy. The mood was quiet as family members were allowed to sit and wait – maybe seeing each other for the last time. I could feel the concern and their spirit of duty.  My heart raced, wanting to offer something but at the same time not wanting to interrupt these last moments.  As I passed with my girls, I quietly said to all of them, “We love you all and will be keeping you in our prayers.”  Those army wives and children were so proud and grateful that their husbands, fathers and brothers were being honored by a stranger. Walking to our gate, another group of armed forces deplaned.  As they walked through the concourse, I heard someone begin to applaud; like dominos… people turned to join in and cheer on our soldiers. It was a moment that made our hearts swell.

I see a service member who was obviously injured in the line of duty. Should I mention the injury as I say thanks?

Why mention it? They are struggling to maintain a normal life and adjust to the injury in the best way he or she can. Quite possibly the injury was traumatic and incredibly painful. From my personal experience, most service members don’t want to relive those gut-wrenching moments on the battlefield in the grocery store. Just sincerely thank them for their service and sacrifice to our country no matter what war they fought in.  Your sentiment will be appreciated.

 I’m too shy to walk up to a stranger and say thanks. Any ideas on other ways to express my gratitude?

Yes, there is! There are many organizations that actively collect thank-you notes to include in care packages to send to our deployed troops and injured servicemen. One of my favorite organizations is “Operation Gratitude” -  www.opgratitude.com  To date they have collected and sent over 632,700+ boxes to our soldiers on ships and bases around the world filled with thank-you notes, DVD’s, candy, beanie babies, toiletries and love from America. If you think these servicemen and women aren’t grateful, please click on their site and read the overwhelming thank you’s they’ve received. Operation Gratitude has also expanded their network to include the “Wounded Warriors” and they always need donations and thank-you notes!

What can you do?
Write a letter and send it today!!
Ask your church, school or group to put out a request to their students or members to bring in an open thank-you note to a solider. Sometimes we want to help but unless there is someone to suggest getting it done, it passes us by. Then offer to collect the letters and send them on to Operation Gratitude or your local military care organization. 
Don’t forget the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or other children’s organizations that can draw the sweetest pictures and include the best cookies ever!
Ask your local farmer’s market, grocery store or shopping mall if you can set up a table for people to write thank-you notes to our soldiers. With paper and pen ready, people are more likely to sit down in the spirit of the moment and get it done! 
Make a donation! The postage for each care package is $15 and every bit helps! Or check out the needed items on the Operation Gratitude website. 
Knit? Scarves and yarn are in demand. Sew? How about making a Neck-Gaiters to keep a serviceman cool!
Organize a bake sale and donate the money.
Got Halloween Candy? Ask your school or dentist to suggest a local collection for our troops. Every piece goes into a care package.
Volunteer! My daughter and I have volunteered at Operation Gratitude and addressed the care packages to our soldiers. It was an amazing experience to hold the boxes bursting with love and write each soldier’s name on them. There were American Indian names, English, Spanish, Korean, Irish, Italian, French – and for a moment, we imagined what they looked like and prayed for their safe return.