The following organizations offer opportunities to support our veterans with letter-writing, care packages, career mentoring and more.
The transition from military to civilian life can be frustrating. After growing within the military and having significant responsibility, veterans are faced with the need to start over when they get out. Specifically, they have to figure out how to find opportunities and present themselves within the civilian system, which their peers have already been doing for years. To facilitate the process, Veterati offers volunteers a chance to provide veterans with valuable career mentoring. Mentors sign up online (it takes a couple of minutes) and note areas of expertise and a specific time and date to mentor (a minimum of an hour). Veterans, active military and spouses browse through mentors and schedule a coaching session through the Veterati platform, and Veterati connects the call.
American Corporate Partners’ AdvisorNet is an online forum where veterans and spouses of active-duty military can seek career advice for civilian jobs. Spouses are included because they often move every few years to support their partners and therefore don’t have a strong network to rely on. Questions range from how to improve a résumé to the best way to get in the door for an IT job to how to negotiate a pay raise. Tens of thousands of veterans post questions on the forum, and after registering as an adviser, you can search through questions and provide suggestions in your area of expertise. Veterans can also search adviser profiles to find those who have experience in areas where they need help. American Corporate Partners says there’s a growing need to help transitioning veterans given the Department of Defense’s projection that one million additional troops would be transitioning in the years from 2019 to 2024.
While deployed in Iraq, Patti Patton-Bader’s son told her that he was one of the few soldiers receiving care packages, so she gathered some friends and neighbors and they began sending packages to his whole platoon. More and more requests came from soldiers, combat hospitals and families of soldiers, so Patti and her friends built an organization to match soldiers and their needs with people who wanted to help. Soldiers’ Angels sends letters and care packages to deployed U.S. service members. The minimum commitment is sending three letters or three care packages over three months. You can also sign up to adopt a service member and send one letter a week and one care package a month during that person’s deployment. Volunteers need to donate $12, which allows you to participate in all volunteer activities offered by Soldiers’ Angels and helps to cover overhead expenses.
Soldiers’ Angels has multiple programs that support military families. One program matches military and veteran families with people who want to “adopt” the families for the holidays by purchasing a $35-to-$50 gift for each child in a family and a $50-to-$100 grocery gift card (depending on the size of the family) to help pay for a holiday dinner. You’ll also need to donate $12 to Soldiers’ Angels, which helps to cover their overhead. Given the tight budget military families often live on, holiday adoptions can be a big help.
While volunteering at the Los Angeles Airport military lounge in the wake of 9/11, Carolyn Blashek talked with a soldier who felt like he had no one, and she decided that every soldier should hear from people at home. So she founded Operation Gratitude, which sends care packages accompanied by handwritten letters and handmade items to troops, veterans, first responders, new recruits, and wounded heroes and their caregivers. Operation Gratitude has sent more than 3.5 million care packages.
While Brian Horn was serving in Iraq, his parents sent him an average of six care packages a week. When he called home to ask for more, they thought he was kidding. He wasn’t—he wanted to give care packages to soldiers who received little or no mail. So Brian’s parents started the Any Soldier website, which has served more than two million troops. Troops serving overseas request items that their units could use, from underwear and socks to baseballs and puzzles. You choose a request to fill, and when your package arrives, the person who made the request gives your letters or care package to people in the unit who don’t get much or any mail. Keep in mind that this isn’t as simple as bringing a care package to the post office. You’ll need to download and fill out customs forms, and they’ll list shipping limitations you’ll want to know about before buying care package items.