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National Volunteer Month: Find Ways to Give Back

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Air Force Capt. Kelly Nettleblad paints the door of a school building April 9, 2011, at the Sapang Bato Elementary School in Angeles City, Philippines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

Pat Solomon hugs as many returning service members as she can. At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, a gateway for many of our warriors headed to battle and back home, that’s a lot of hugs.

One of four winners of the United Service Organization Volunteer of the Quarter Award, Solomon is at the airport first thing in the morning with her arms outstretched. She drives 70 miles a week gathering donations for service members and military families, and when they’re stranded at the airport, she stays with them until they can continue traveling.

Volunteers are invaluable to the military community, and as many of our service members return home from deployment, now is the time to get involved. Many of them face reintegration challenges, such as adjusting to life at home and coping with psychological concerns or traumatic brain injury. Service members, veterans and families can use any extra help—help that shows their communities care.

And when it comes to volunteerism, there’s so many different ways to do it. Check out these volunteer activities that reach out and lend a helping hand to our heroes:

  • Start a project. Joining Forces, the White House initiative that encourages communities to support service members, veterans and their families, offers many ways for volunteers to engage their community in a project to help our military. The initiative helps volunteers find service opportunities, pledge hours, send a message of thanks and share a story of support.
  • Choose your own adventure. Whether it’s a bake sale, care package assembly or benefit event, National Resource Directory helps you to find volunteer opportunities that fit your interests.
  • Send an ecard of thanks. Real Warriors Campaign and American Legion offer ecards to send to military members.
  • Be a charitable chauffeur. Disabled American Veterans Drive a Van program connects volunteer drivers with veterans who don’t have transportation to and from Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities for treatment. The program also provides donated vans when needed.
  • Volunteer at a medical center. Volunteers are valuable to military medical centers, as they not only provide needed hospital services, they can also support wounded warriors away from their families. Locate your nearest VA hospital for volunteer opportunities, or contact the medical center at the installation closest to you.
  • Help a veteran. VA volunteer website lists many ways you can reach out to veterans, such as staffing a Welcome Home event. Use the search feature to find local opportunities to help veterans.
  • Reach out to military families. Visit Blue Star Families to learn how to help military families, including thanking them for their sacrifice through the Operation Appreciation program, or reaching out to a family resilience center at a local installation.
  • Find a military organization supporting your cause. Real Warriors Campaign has many partners, including military nonprofits, agencies and organizations that help all components and services of the military community.

These programs are just the tip of the iceberg for recognizing the service and sacrifices of our service members, veterans and their families. As April is National Volunteer Month, use these resources to find national and local opportunities to use your talents this month (and year round)—get out there, get creative and get involved!

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