November 29, 2011 -
Turkey leftovers in the fridge are a reminder that Thanksgiving is behind and Christmas giving is ahead. Here are some ideas for gifts that give back to our military community and some that remind us why we love being a part of it.
Let’s start with a few books – tailored for military family giving and receiving – and finish with some other shopping ideas.
For everyone: “1001 Things to Love About Military Life,” by military wives Tara Crooks, Starlett Henderson, Kathie Hightower and Holly Scherer is good reading for active duty, spouses, kids or retirees. This book is just what the title says, an extensive list of things to love about the military, from AFN commercials to Zulu time.
Spaces are provided to write personal reminiscences. Another gift idea for this book: Personalize it with your own military experiences and give it to your children.
Full disclosure: Many military members and spouses contributed to this book, including me, but I don’t have a financial interest.
For the kids: Kimberly Willis Holt, grown up Navy daughter and author of the “Piper Reed, Navy Brat” series has a new edition. “Piper Reed, Rodeo Star” joins several other chapter book titles, all about a girl growing up in a mobile military family. Kids from all service branches can relate to Piper’s adventures for middle grade readers.
For the romantic: Marine wife and New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr has added a title to her “Virgin River” novels. Her latest, “Bring Me Home for Christmas,” is about “reuniting with the one person you just can’t forget.” Of course that would be a military man. What’s more romantic than that?
For the poetic: The work of Navy wife and poet Jehanne Dubrow takes a more cerebral approach. Her book “Stateside” is an honest examination of her military life through poetry. The author says: “It helps me to order the universe if I can put a difficult problem into fourteen lines and call it a sonnet.” Even if wrapping up your problems is more complex, put a bow on this book.
For the practical: A series of books about common parenting issues, “Good Parent Good Child” was written and developed by, Rebecca Jackson, Dr. Robert Pressman and Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, a team of authors with experience in the military community. Although the topics apply to most families – homework, bedtime, friends – the unique situations of military families are also highlighted. We don’t find that in a lot of family books, so this is worth checking out.
The series includes companion books – age-appropriate book for kids, guidebook for parents – to approach each issue from both perspectives.
For the recycle or retro enthusiast: How about shopping at your spouse club thrift store or craft bazaar? Treasures are waiting to be uncovered there, and a gift does not have to be new or machine-made to be useful and thoughtful. Also shopping in these outlets puts money back into your community. The scholarship you help to fund might be for one of your children.
For the humanitarian: Peace Cord bracelets made by Afghan women from parachute cord and U.S. military buttons give back in two ways. Arzu Studio Hope, which created this project, gives proceeds back to the artisans and their communities, which also agree to certain parameters, including education for all children, in order to participate in the program.
Sales of these bracelets also support “Spirit of America,” a non-profit organization donating humanitarian materials for American military members to distribute in Afghanistan.
Providing “whatever our troops need to help the local people,” says the Spirit of America website, builds good will and helps people in need. The materials to make these bracelets are purchased from U.S. suppliers.
For those in need: Take your kids shopping for gifts that are not for them. Military exchanges often have an “angel tree” or “giving tree” program for local kids in need. Let your children choose clothing or toys to buy and donate – perhaps with their own money. Another good way to give is through the U.S. Marine Corps program Toys for Tots.
For the troops: Purchase care packages from the USO Wishbook. Buyers can order with a few clicks online. The USO sends the gifts to service members stationed overseas or to their families at home. These gifts, from phone cards to recordable children’s books, are easy to send, requiring no shopping or wondering what items are needed or appropriate for various locations.
For families of heroes: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors has an online store. Purchasing any of the books or gifts offered there provides funds for TAPS, a non-profit organization serving families of fallen soldiers. TAPS provides grief counseling and many other types of support for bereaved military families.
If it’s better to give than to receive, it’s even better to give gifts that give twice. Happy shopping and happy giving.