When I headed out to the monthly Outlaw Cigar Party this morning my only focus was free beer, free BBQ, and free eye candy.
But when I got there I noticed a change.
Instead of everything being completely free, they were asking for a $5.00 donation if you wanted a paper plate to put your food on.
Five dollars for a paper plate?!
Happily paid with much gratitude. Because the money was going to an organization called Soldiers Angels.
I'd never heard of this organization before. But they are amazing.
Today's focus was on First Response Backpacks
"When military personnel are injured or wounded, treatment and transportation occur with such speed that sometimes their gear and personal items never catch up with them. They are often evacuated wearing the same clothing they wore when they were wounded--clothing that is often damaged in action or removed during treatment--and soon find themselves without easy access to basic supplies.
To address this situation, Soldiers' Angels created the First Response Backpacks in partnership with The Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) and Minimus.biz. The backpacks provide a full set of travel-sized toiletries and accessories (such as toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, shampoo, and soap), an international calling card, and a handmade Blanket of Hope. Each backpack includes clothing specially-designed by Sew Much Comfort to be easily donned by those with serious wounds and to give relief from drafty hospital gowns. We also include a zippered, hooded sweatshirt with the Soldiers' Angels logo."
When I got home and investigated Soldiers' Angel's further, I was even more impressed. The support they provide to our troops is amazing.
Adopt a Soldier - Individualized support throughout deployment
"The length of each adoption depends on the branch of service your soldier is in and a number of other factors, but generally averages between six (6) months to twelve (12) months. On occasion, they can be extended, but this is the average. When you adopt you are committing to sending a card or letter each week, and a minimum of 1 or 2 care packages a month. This is one of the most important things that can be done to help bring home a healthy hero; it is so very important for each of them to know they are loved and supported, and your letters and care packages prove just that."
Angel Bakers - Homemade treats for the deployed.
"The Angel Bakers are a group of highly dedicated Soldiers’ Angels who bake homemade treats for our deployed military heroes.
Each month the Angel Bakers send specially-made cookies, brownies, and other treats to units identified by Soldiers’ Angels as needing extra Angel love. They may have been through an especially difficult experience during their deployment, living in especially trying conditions, or in need of a morale boost for a job well done. Our aim is to show our heroes how much people back home appreciate and care about them."
Blankets of Gratitude - Handcrafted love for hospitalized veterans
"This winter, thousands of veterans will spend time in a VA hospital or facility, away from the warmth of home, family and friends.
We want them to know that they are remembered, that we are thinking of them, and that we are grateful for their past service. Since we can't visit them all in person, our goal is to wrap 25,000 of these Veterans in lap robes, representative of our support and appreciation, called "Blankets of Gratitude." The lap robes will be a physical reminder that they are not alone. When a veteran receives a Blanket of Gratitude, he or she will know that somebody remembered them, that somebody labored over a handmade robe with thoughts of them and hopes or prayers for their health and comfort."
Blankets of Hope - Handcrafted comfort for the wounded
"The Blankets of Hope team creates unique, handmade blankets to send hope, support and gratitude to America's wounded and veterans. Used on hospital beds, wheelchairs, and transport litters on medevac flights, Blankets of Hope bring the message that each servicemember is loved and not forgotten. They are included in our First Response Backpacks and Vet Packs sent to Combat Support Hospitals in the war zones, major medical facilities in Germany and around the world, and selected military hospitals and veterans centers here at home."
Cards Plus Team - Extra TLC for soldiers & families
"The Cards Plus Team is dedicated to supporting service members, their families, and even Angels with encouraging or celebratory cards and notes. Cards can be requested for deployed soldiers for:
Thinking of you/Get well
Chaplain Support Team - Help chaplains support the troops
"The Chaplains Support Team (CST) provides direct support to the military chaplains as they bring comfort and assistance to the soldiers they serve. The chaplains perform most of their duties in a non-denominational capacity, and it is these non-denominational activities that the CST supports.
We supply Chaplains with requested items related to their mission, and requested numbers of hand-out letters and gifts that can be easily distributed to those needing assistance whom Soldiers' Angels may not otherwise be able to locate and support. Items shipped can include everything from non-denominational chapel supplies to delicious food items for special group meals, cards for the deployed to send to family members for holidays and birthdays, and things like games, sports equipment, or books for recreation."
Community Team Leaders (CTLs) - Representing Soldiers' Angels at home
Eagle Cane Project - Handmade canes for the wounded
"Inspired in 2004 by a national news story on returning veterans suffering limb loss, Jack Nitz realized that there was something that he could do as a woodcarver and cane maker to demonstrate support for and bring honor to wounded veterans. He conceived of carving symbolic "Presentation" canes - not as an every day use object - but as an artistic representation of support and respect. The Eagle Cane Project was born in 2004 at Eastern Oklahoma Woodcarvers Association meetings and has since spread to a nationwide network of carving associations.
Where possible, canes are made by woodworkers in the veteran's home state and presented in person. When that is not possible, Soldiers' Angels covers the cost of shipping these valuable and beautiful canes to their recipients. Since February 2007, Soldiers' Angels has shipped over 229 presentation canes for the Eagle Cane Project nationwide, as well as several boxes of therapy canes for use in rehabilitation facilities. Visit the Eagle Cane Project webiste to request a cane or join the project."
First Response Backpacks - Supplies for wounded in-country
(As referenced above)
Hero Flights - Emergency travel assistance
"Hero Flights' mission is to serve our heroes and their families in times of great need by providing airline flights and other travel accommodations.
When our deployed troops need to get back home immediately because of a death or serious family illness, Hero Flights is activated. When a spouse or parent of a wounded service member needs to get to the hospital where their loved one has been transported, Hero Flights is activated. When the family members or our fallen heroes need to get to their memorials, Hero Flights is activated. These men, women and families have made great sacrifices for us, and we stand ready to assist them at all times. In the first three months of 2008, Hero Flights provided 286 flights, as well as lodging for six families while they visited wounded service members, and transportation for three units to go home on their pre-deployment leave."
Hero Packs - Care packages
"Send Care Packges to your aSoldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman or Coast Guardsman or Any hero!
For a donation of $23, a Hero Pack will be sent out to a new hero to Soldiers' Angels or your hero of choice. This kit includes:
A note from you
Or a thank you for your service letter
1 - Lip Balm
2 - Powdered Drink (Hot Cocoa in the winter, Gatorade in the summer)
2 - Hygeine
Welch's® Fruit Snacks (1), Sun Maid® Raisins (1), Planters® Honey Roasted Peanuts (1), Planters® Sunflower Kernels (1), Kars® Sweet 'N Salty Mix (1), Lowrey's Original Beef Jerky (3), Nature Valley® Oats 'N Honey Granola Bar (1), Kellogg's® NutriGrain Blueberry Cereal Bar (1), Nabisco® Mini Chips Ahoy Cookies (1), Act II Butter Popcorn (1), Nabisco® Ritz Bits® with Cheese (1), Chex Mix (1), Pringles® Original Potato Crisps (1), Pringles® Sour Cream & Onion Potato Crisps (1), Wrigley's® Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum (2), Lifesavers® 5 Flavor (1), Thank you
Plus, you can add one of the following items to the Hero Packs if you would like:
Snack Pack +$6.00
Sand Scarf + $6.00
Cool Scarf + $6.00
AT&T Global Calling Card + $11.00
COMBO: Sand Scarf and AT&T Calling Card + $15.00
COMBO: Cool Scarf and AT&T Calling Card + $15.00
BEST VALUE!!! Add Sand Scarf, Cool Scarf and AT&T Calling Card for an additional $17
10 Otter Pops + $3.00"
K-9 Support - Caring for military working dogs and their handlers
"We are the lifeline of Soldiers' Angels to the U.S. military dog teams, making sure both dogs and handlers have what they need when they need it, whether it be for work or a well-earned break.
Military working dog teams are very special, highly-trained units. The dogs perform important duties such as sniffing out explosives and weapons, chasing down bad guys, and alerting their handlers to danger. A happy dog is a dog that loves his job and does it well, but the dogs can stress out just like their handlers or any other soldier, affecting their job performance. So, we work to help both dog and human have down time, and make sure they know we support them."
Ladies of Liberty - Extra TLC for deployed females
"The Ladies of Liberty team of Soldiers' Angels focuses on the needs of deployed female servicemembers. We understand that females are instrumental in the current war (as in the past), and make special efforts to support them in their missions while showcasing our appreciation for their service. We assist with supplies for their unique health and hygiene needs, and help them experience a few pampering moments to rejuvenate and "be good to themselves."
Letter Writing Team - Personal letters for the deployed
"The Letter Writing Team (LWT) is made up of registered Soldiers' Angels who enjoy writing to our heroes, and who know how important it is to hear your name called at mail call (sadly some soldiers get no mail at all from back home). We select names from those that submit themselves through the Soldiers' Angel website and have indicated that they would like to receive additional support. These soldiers are also assigned an Angel to provide ongoing support, but our team provides them with some extra cards and letters."
Living Legends - Remembering the fallen and their families
"The Living Legends team conducts one of the most delicate and demanding missions of Soldiers' Angels: comforting the loved ones left behind when a warrior falls on the battlefield. Our goal is to make sure families and friends of America's fallen heroes know that they are supported and that their loved ones' sacrifices are honored and respected.
Living Legends began in May 2005 with a very small team of seven dedicated angels. It has grown significantly since then, and is now staffed entirely with trained volunteers.
Members of this special team send sympathy cards to grieving families to convey our compassion and heavy hearts--we reach out and wrap our "Angel Wings" around the families and loved ones who have lost so much. We also offer each family a wreath or live memorial tree to be planted as a symbol of our deepest sympathies and respect for their loss. Our hope is that this tree will grow and flourish, giving the family and friends a living monument to the honor and bravery of their loved one. In addition, we send out "Remembering" emails or cards on the anniversary of a fallen heroe's death, so that their families know we will never forget them and their sacrifice."
Memorial Portraits - Drawings for families of the fallen
"Using the family’s favorite photo, portrait artist Michael Reagan creates professional, custom, hand-drawn portraits free of charge to the families of all servicemen and women who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in America’s War Against Terrorism from portrait artist Michael Reagan."
Operation Birthday Cake - Shipping gourmet birthday cakes to deployed troops
"Thanks to a cooperative project between Soldiers' Angels and Bake me a Wish, deployed service members can receive birthday cakes from patriotic Americans. For every Freedom Cake purchased on Bake Me a Wish, a birthday cake will be sent to a service member in the customer's name. Bake Me a Wish will generously donate their delicious birthday cakes, and Soldiers' Angels will send each one on its way."
Operation Outreach - Supporting families waiting at home
"Although our primary request is for cards and letters of support for family members, Operation Outreach also provides gifts to help with make a birthday or holiday special, coordinates with Angels in local areas to provide ongoing support, links military families with "e-pals" or pen pals who know what they're going through, and provides limited financial assistance in special situations."
Operation Phone Home - Calling cards
"Time with loved ones is one of the most treasured things for a deployed soldier and family. With that in mind, Soldiers' Angels has partnered with AT&T to create special Soldiers Angels/AT&T Global PrePaid Calling Cards. AT&T calling cards are the most widely-accepted phone card in the Middle East, and in some areas they are the only brand that can be used. These special cards include a recorded message of thanks from Soldiers' Angels, and can be used from wherever service members are stationed around the world, on land or at sea."
Operation Top Knot - Handmade gifts & virtual baby showers
"Founded by college student Audri Cid in November 2003, Top Knot is a nationwide network of service clubs and individuals who sew, knit and shop to create gift baskets for infants and expectant mothers in military families. Deployments are difficult on the entire family unit, but even moreso when that family is expecting or has an infant child. Our mission is to commend the women and children at home for their strength, to let them know we are proud of their sacrifices as well as their husbands' and fathers', and most importantly, to do what we can to support them during the emotionally challenging times of deployment.
Our dedicated volunteers knit, crochet, sew, quilt, and design blankets, booties, hats, onesies, bibs, and many more homemade gifts. We also assemble and deliver gift baskets full of goodies such as bottles, diapers, onesies, pacifiers, washcloths, grooming kits, and more. Additionally, we make sure to remember Dad by sending "It's a Boy!" or "It's a Girl!" bubblegum cigars to wherever he is stationed."
Scarves - Handmade heat and sand protection
"Made of 100% knit cotton, Sand Scarves are used to protect wearers from the elements of the deserts of the Middle East. They keep sand from nostrils and mouth, and when tucked into the shirt, prevent sand from getting inside clothing. They are simple to make, but extremely effective.
Protect face, neck and ears from dust, sand, mosquitoes, ticks, gnats, etc.
Assist with breathing in blowing wind, and protect from sand and other debris
Good for all weather climates
Great for sand, desert and wooded environments
If you would like to help make Sand Scarves, see "How You Can Help" for the link to join the team! If you know of deployed personnel who could use Sand Scarves, or you have questions about the Scarves program that are not answered in the information and links above, please email the Sand Scarves Leader."
SOS:Kids - Helping deployed soldiers help local kids
"In response to these needs and opportunities, Operation SOS:Kids sends humanitarian relief through shipments to American soldiers for distribution to children in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other areas where our heroes are deployed.
Some of the heroes this project has supported:
A sergeant with a medical unit requesting candy and small toys for the children they treat
A first lieutenant requesting school supplies to help get local schools going
A staff sergeant in Afghanistan requesting school supplies and other items to help local children
A tech sergeant seeking items for the children his unit comes in contact with every day
People in war-torn areas have so little and have been through so much. The children need food, clothing, school supplies, and personal hygiene items. And the occasional toy or treat puts a huge smile on a child's face! By reaching out and helping to meet some of their needs, our soldiers can also establish all-important good relationships with the people they're living near and working with--developing the friendship, trust, and intelligence sources that help keep our troops safe and secure in the areas in which they're based."
Tank Support - Helping Veterans Travel to Medical Appointments
"Help a Returning Veteran Get Proper Healthcare!
Thousands of troops are returning home and require regular trips to their local VA Hospital for evaluation, treatment or rehabilitation, and regular healthcare. However, these vital trips can be a financial burden for some veterans. Now SVM and the Soldiers’ Angels VA Team are stepping up to help with the Tank Support program.
Grateful Americans can help give a veteran some “tank support” by purchasing gasoline gift cards from SVM. All gift cards received will be used to help ensure returning OEF/OIF veterans get the regular checkups and medical care they need, and SVM donates $1 to the Tank Support effort for each purchase made through their website (up to $10,000).
“It’s so important that our returning heroes get regular evaluations"
Valour-IT - Adaptive laptops for the wounded
"Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss, helps provide voice-controlled/adaptive laptop computers and other technology to support Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand wounds and other severe injuries."
VA Crochet & Craft - Handmade comfort & dignity for hospitalized Vets
"The VA Crochet & Craft Team makes and sends lapghans (blankets), hats, scarves, trach/stoma bibs, catheter bag covers, ditty bags, wheelchair/walker totes and slipper socks to VA medical facilities around the country. Members use their sewing, knitting, crocheting and other crafting skills to help provide comfort and dignity to hospitalized veterans while showing them that they are loved and remembered."
Veterans Support - Assisting veterans facilities
"The Soldiers Angels Veteran Affairs Support Team assists patients at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers, nursing homes and Stand Downs. This support can range from visiting patients to providing comfort items and clothing, to sponsoring special events like BBQs or assisting VA facilities with large-scale efforts to improve in-patients' quality of life."
Wounded TLC - Letters and care packages for the wounded
"The Wounded TLC Team is comprised of registered Soldiers’ Angels who want to make a big difference and lend support during the difficult time when a hero is ill or wounded. Knowing they continue to be remembered when no longer deployed can be a huge boost to wounded warriors who face months and years of recovery.
This team is the core of the Wounded Warrior Support efforts of Soldiers' Angels, and a vital part of helping the wounded recover both physically and emotionally for their challenges. Team members send cards and letters of support to service members who are sometimes suffering catastrophic injuries and need to know they are not forgotten. The only commitment is to send a card/letter a week. Individual packages are not sent, but sometimes there are requests for supplies for hospitals or a particular soldier's need."