Michael G. Sheppard



5 Ways to Give Back to a Veteran This Holiday Season

The holiday season presents a great opportunity for us to give back to those in need. One group of individuals that is more than deserving of a lending hand is the men and women who have served in the United States military. To bring the holiday spirit to a veteran this year, try one (or all!) of these five things.

“Adopt” A Military Family 

During the holiday season, many families experience financial stress. Veteran families face the same stressor. Often veteran families are on a tight budget that even gets tighter during the holidays. Soldier’s Angels is one organization you can turn to if you are looking to help out a military family this Christmas. Help show your gratitude to those who served by picking out gifts for sons and daughters of a service member or buy grocery gift cards to help with the holiday dinner!

Write a Letter or Send a Care Package 

For many service members, it can be a difficult transition to go from a warzone to civilian life. To ease the transition think about sending a care package or writing a letter. Operation Gratitude is an organization that helps sends both packages and letters to current service members and veterans in the military community.

Gift Your Frequent-Flyer Miles  

If your schedule is jammed pack this holiday season and don’t have time to volunteer, consider donating your frequent-flyer miles. By donating your frequent fliers you can help veterans reunite with their families during the holidays. Organizations like the Fisher House Foundation, will graciously accept your frequent flyer donations and provide round-trip tickets to veterans.

Volunteer Your Time at a Local Veterans Shelter 

When veterans return home from serving their country they are often faced with many challenges from homelessness to unemployment to mental health issues. Across the country, you can find shelters with transitional programs that help veterans overcome these challenges. By checking out Volunteers of America you can see if there are any volunteer opportunities at nearby shelters for you or your family this holiday season.

Show Your Gratitude 

The simplest way of giving back is just by saying “thank you”. Saying thank you is both quick, effective, and easily shows your appreciation towards a serviceman or woman. Next time you see someone in a military uniform, stop and say thank you. You don’t have to make an elaborate speech or have all the right things to say. Sometimes a simple thank you can make a veteran’s day.

This blog was originally posted on 

Military Families Face New Obstacles

While November is National Veterans and Military Families Months and while a lot of vets and their families will be enjoying free meals and social media posts declaring solidarity with current and former armed service members. However, at this time, many families within the military community are experiencing undue hardships at this time. This is the purpose of an editorial published in about the struggles that military families are currently dealing with. Changes to the healthcare system for military families have thrown areas of coverage into doubt. Access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention is imperative for many veterans and their family members. Housing for Marines in Camp Lejeune for military members have suffered catastrophic damage, leaving families living in uninhabitable conditions.

The most sweeping change to military families is the new shifts in the infrastructure to the military’s system of healthcare, Tricare. Currently, Tricare is holding open enrollment until December 10th where families can examine and choose between two plans, Tricare Select and Tricare Prime. After enrollment is closed, whatever plans families have will be locked into place and only a “qualifying life event” such as the birth of a baby will allow a change in plans. This could lead to confusion in coverage at a time when healthcare coverage has become a prime concern nationally.

In conjunction with healthcare is quality mental health treatment. The stresses of military life can be overwhelming for both service members and their loved ones. The military has put programs in place to offset this. Their effort includes family life counselors that can help process stress factors in life as well as Family Readiness Groups (FRG) and Morale, Welfare, & Recreation (MWR) programs that build community and coping mechanisms. Nonetheless, suicide in the military remains a firm problem and, despite the National Defense Authorization Act mandating the tracking of family suicides in the military, actual data on the subject has yet to be published. This makes building effective prevention measures difficult.

Perhaps most alarmingly, Marines stationed in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune are under the thumb of a severe housing crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Following the storm, houses have been shown to be unsafe with water-damaged floors and broken ceilings. Mold and power outages abound within the on-base housing and the response to fix it by the manager of the privatized housing has been slow. Such issues with private housing on posts have been a military-wide problem as standard tenet protections often do not apply. These kinds of problems, the op-ed asserts, need to be rectified if the military is expected to give it all for their country.

Originally published at on October 25, 2018.

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