You can no longer just tuck a care package in the mail for "Any Service Member" as a way to show your support for U.S. troops in Afghanistan and other countries. The Defense Department is no longer allowing that decades-old tradition due to concerns for troops’ security and safety.
But there are still plenty of ways you can help. Several nonprofit groups prepare and distribute care packages, and there are a host of other unique ways you can show support. They include donating frequent flier miles, helping finance renovation of a disabled soldier’s home, volunteering your time to help a charitable group or purchasing gift certificates that soldiers can use in commissaries and exchanges to buy items they truly want.
In most cases, your monetary contributions will be tax-deductible. Here’s a rundown of online resources you might consider as a way to give your support for U.S. military servicemen and servicewomen:
Books for Soldiers
This site displays requests from soldiers for books and DVDs and provides guidelines for how to ship them (it also collects materials and ships them to soldiers who want anonymity). Tip: Use the search feature to find requested titles you have at home. The site requires a registration to view the requests and participate in forums that feature discussions with military personnel and other donors.
Originally created in response to reports of soldiers paying their own way to get home for R&R once they landed at military bases, this site enables you to donate frequent flier miles from select airlines. Although the Pentagon now pays for domestic flights for soldiers, donated miles are used to help soldiers returning home on emergency leave, as well as military spouses and families visiting wounded soldiers in U.S. military hospitals. A military agency coordinates distribution of tickets issued through the program. Note: The site links you to donation procedures, which vary from airline to airline.
Homes For Our Troops
Started in February 2004, this Massachusetts-based nonprofit builds and adapts homes for troops who have returned from Iraq with disabilities. The site seeks monetary donations, as well as contributions of land, to expand the number of the handful of projects under way. Organizers work with contractors, home material manufacturers and corporate partners to raise funds and provide materials for building projects.
Operation Air Conditioner
This nonprofit group provides air conditioners, boots and heaters for U.S. troops serving in Iraq. The site solicits monetary donations by mail or via PayPal (an online payment transfer site) to pay for bulk purchases of these items, which then get sent to troops. Donors can adopt a soldier, who post requests on the site, to receive items you purchased on his/her behalf.