The night Hurricane Sandy tore up the East Coast wreaking havoc from North Carolina to New Hampshire, Jake and I attended a talk at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, which was unaffected by the storm.
The talk was given by a Lieutenant Colonel Jake met during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. His speech was heart felt and thought provoking, but the most moving and illuminating part of the evening was what he said afterward.
As Jake and the Lt. Colonel caught up briefly afterward while I listened in, the Lt. Col. mentioned he had to dash up to Maryland that night his home state some three hours away because in addition to his duties as an army officer, he was also a Maryland national guardsmen on orders from the governor to assist in any fallout from Sandy (which turned out to be less catastrophic than in states north).
When he said this, my jaw kinda dropped. Here is a man who not only volunteered to risk his life in Taliban country for a year, but on the very same night of his lecture, he had to race up to Maryland to perform rescue operations and provide assistance — distributing fuel, food, cold-weather clothing to his fellow Marylanders in the middle of a hurricane when most normal humans would prefer to cower in their bathtubs and pray the roof doesn’t go airbone.
Do you know how much states pay their guardsmen for such service? Twelve dollars an hour! Twelve dollars an hour to go save lives in a hurricane.
But as the Lt. Colonel explained, he doesn’t do it for money. That’s obvious! He does it because his state — our entire country! — needs men and women like him.
Man, if there’s ever a time to tip your hat to a veteran, this Sunday, November 11 Veteran’s Day — is the day to do it.
Right now, there are 6,618 National Guard personnel from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and West Virginia assisting in response and recovery efforts post hurricane, and a good percentage of these guys are veterans. They deserve some serious gratitude, don’t you think?
Here are seven ways to give back to service members this Sunday.
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Say THANK YOU in person 1 of 7If that's not an option, do it digitally. Shutterfly has launched a campaign to send 1 million free, physical thank you cards through its Thank the Troops Facebook app. Select a cool card, add a personal message or photo, and share the card via Facebook to inspire friends to do same. Shutterfly will print and distribute cards to troops and veterans with help from A Million Thanks organization.
Offer to baby-sit! 2 of 7It's all about the little things. If you're friendly with a veteran or guardsmen, call him up and tell him you'd like to give back by playing Shoots and Ladders with his kid while he goes out and gets wasted on gallon margaritas from Chiles. What more could a grizzled combat veteran want? Besides peace, of course.
Support military dogs and the soldiers who love them 3 of 7This Veterans Day, the HISTORY channel will donate $1 to America's VetDogs (up to $10,000) for EVERY #thankavet tweet sent on November 11. VetDogs is a not-for-profit organization that helps serve the needs of disabled veterans and active duty personnel by providing guide dogs and training. You can also make a donation to a charity like Nowzad that rescues stray animals on behalf of soldiers deployed to war torn countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. That's how we rescued our own awesome Afghan wonder dog Solha!
Give back to paralyzed veterans 4 of 7If you donate to Paralyzed Veterans of America by Sunday, Nov 11, some mysterious wildly generous donor has offered to double the donation. So a $100 donation is worth $200. A $200 donation is worth $400! I jumped at this one. It's too good to pass up. Donations give these guys quality health care and support, and helps fund research to find a cure for paralysis. With a little luck, there might even be money left over for a lap dance.
Grant a wish 5 of 7The Wish for Our Heroes foundation offers help to military families facing hardships (try reading a few of these stories on this website without tearing up). By matching wish requests with volunteers, you can volunteer to help a military family keep the lawn mowed during a spouse's deployment to offering financial assistance to veterans rehabilitating from physical and psychological injuries and unable to work.
Allow a soldier to talk for free on a used cell phone 6 of 7By donating your gently used cell phone, you can enable active duty soldiers and veterans to talk for free all around the world AND keep phones out of landfills. Cell Phones for Soldiers was started by Robbie and Brittany Bergquist when they were just 12 and 13 years old. Funds raised from the recycling of cellular phones are used to purchase prepaid international calling cards. The Bergquist's program has so far provided 168 million minutes of free talk time to servicemen and women stationed around the world.
Donate stuff 7 of 7Donate supplies, care packages, financial support and even old electronics & ink cartridges! Give 2 the Troops supports the physical, moral, and spiritual health of America's armed forces deployed to combat and disaster relief zones around the world with letters and packages prepared by caring volunteers.
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