soldiers-559761_960_720For most of us, Thanksgiving is a time to be with family, enjoy each other’s company and feast on a warm meal. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a reality for those serving in the military. Service members are often separated from their families during Thanksgiving, causing emotional pain on both ends. Luckily, there are a number of ways that you can make Thanksgiving a little happier for military service members, veterans and military families. Here are a few ways that you can help, as well as some specific organizations that you can get involved with:

  1. Host a service member in your home.

    There are a number of organizations that allow you to host military service members in your home. If you’re in California and want your family to host a few Marines for a Thanksgiving dinner, get in touch with American Friends of our Armed Forces for their Adopt-A-Marine event. Getting involved is bound to make this holiday season an unforgettable one for your own family as well as for the Marines. Another initiative dedicated to hosting the military is Operation Home Cooking, an event in San Antonio, Texas that allows families in the area to host Airmen and trainees based at Lackland AFB for a warm Thanksgiving dinner. Another great event is in North Chicago, where Sailors who are assigned to Training Support Center Great Lakes will be able to eat with local families thanks to the Adopt-a-Sailor program. This tradition has lived on at Great Lakes since World War I.
  2. Donate to dinner events for military and veteran families.

    There are a number of organizations all throughout the country that host Thanksgiving dinner events for military and veteran families. One such organization is Arena Stage in Washington DC. This organization invites 200 wounded service men and women along with their families to an elegant dinner and a performance. Bridge Church in Princeton, North Carolina is hosting a free Thanksgiving dinner for military families this year as well. Deli Planet in Wichita Falls, Texas, is hosting 50 Airmen who are stationed at Sheppard AFB. Other organizations that put on similar events are Homefront America, Soldiers’ Angels, The Chef’s Garden and Culinary Vegetable Institute and Warrior Family Ministries.
  3. Donate to a food drive.

    There are a number of food drives for those in need, many of which are dedicated to feeding military and veteran families. Bring your non-perishables to the nearest food drive and you can truly turn someone’s Thanksgiving around. Even better, tell your coworkers about the food drive so that you can pool all your donations together. One of these food drives is Operation Turkey Drop, an initiative that aims to provide turkeys to command selected junior enlisted service members before the Thanksgiving holiday. Gold Star Dads of America is a Houston-based group that hopes to deliver Thanksgiving feasts to 200 active duty National Guard soldiers and their families in the Houston area. Donating to this organization’s Thanksgiving event can help deliver a Thanksgiving Feast box to a deserving military family. Other organizations dedicated to this cause are Operation Homefront, Boots on the Ground, Hugs for Soldiers, Women Veterans Interactive and more.

For the people who fought and continue to fight for this country, Thanksgiving can be a difficult time because of money, family separation or other concerns. Please think about helping out a military service member, a veteran or a military family in any way you can this Thanksgiving.