10 Easy Ways to Support the Troops

Express your gratitude to the armed forces with these rewarding ideas Read more: Support the Troops - How to Help …By Marlisse Cepeda

Though some servicemen and women may be thousands of miles away, there's plenty you can do from right where you are to show you're thankful for their brave efforts. Sure, you can donate money to any of the worthy military organizations, but many of the foundations that follow offer more direct ways to give back to those who fight for our country. Read through to find your favorite way to help. Photo by Thinkstock.

1. Send books and more.
There's nothing better than a good read, right? Service members think so, too, despite their limited downtime. After signing up with Books for Soldiers, you'll be able to see soldiers' requests via forums for books, comic books, DVDs and magazines. If you own one of the sought-after items or want to pick it up for a soldier, just send it where the service member asks-the organization suggests using flat-rate boxes from the USPS. If you're interested in sending gifts to multiple soldiers at once, check out the forum for group requests.

2. Donate a facebook post.
To make an impact fast, all you need is a Facebook account. The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), which is dedicated to helping injured service members, provides suggested Facebook poststhat you can "donate." In other words, share their posts as your status to encourage friends and family to raise awareness and support their cause. Not on Facebook? Check out other ways you can support WWP, which include volunteering at community events and participating in the extreme obstacle course, Tough Mudder.

3. Make or donate clothes.
Sew Much Comfort (SMC) lets you turn a hobby into a helping hand. They send sewing instructions to volunteers who then create customized clothing. The lounge pants, dress pants, boxers and shirts have Velcro closures to accommodate wounded soldiers' prosthetics, casts and fixators, so they don't have to wear hospital gowns. If you're passionate about sewing, request the directions packet after March 1st, 2013, when President/CFO and co-founder Michelle Cuppy expects the program to reopen. If you're not sewing savvy, SMC accepts clothing donations, if they meet their strict requirements, as well as monetary donations, so they can buy the most-needed supplies.

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4. Donate your ride.
Instead of trading in your car, truck, RV or motorcycle when you upgrade, consider giving your old wheels to Got Your Back Network. The foundation provides services to the spouses and children of deceased military men and women. To donate, call their 24-hour hotline at (800) 506-0172 or fill out an online form. They will then contact you to arrange a free pick-up. After they evaluate the worth of your vehicle, you'll be able to write the donation off on your taxes.

5. Recycle your old cell phone.
Chances are you have outdated mobile phones creating clutter in your home. Free up some space by shipping them off to Operation Gratitude. Their recycling partner, GCR Wireless, donates anywhere between 50¢ and $150 per device, depending on the model, to Operation Gratitude, which puts the money toward the 100,000 care packages they send the US military every year. If your phone has resale value, it's sent to wireless stores around the world to be sold as a refurbished device; if not, the phones are broken up and melted down.

6. Volunteer your time.
Everyday tasks, such as fixing a sink, tutoring a child or getting taxes done, are struggles when a member of the household is deployed. Joinging Forces, a government-sponsored initiative, encourages volunteers to pledge service hours, which can be completed locally or virtually, by putting their skills to good use. If you're an accountant, for example, you could do a military family's taxes without charging them. For other ways to get involved with Joining Forces, including how you can start your own volunteer project, visit WhiteHouse.gov/JoiningForces.

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7. Help military families with lawn care.
When a service member gets deployed, the maintenance of his family's home may take a big hit. Lawns don't get mowed and snow piles up throughout winter. Project Evergreen's GreenCare for Troops and Snowcare for Troops work with volunteers and landscape professionals to provide the armed forces with a warm welcome home filled with trimmed trees, freshly mown lawns and shoveled snow. If you're interested in using your green thumb for the greater good, register at projectevergreen.com be referred to a family in need near you.

8. Buy calling cards.
One of the biggest comforts for military personnel is getting in touch with their families. You can make the process easier and less costly by purchasing calling cards for service members through Exchange at shop.aafes.com/scs/. On a budget? Cards cost as little as $15.00, and the minutes don't expire. Although calling cards are available at many stores, Exchange's options offer the best value for those calling the US from abroad. Bonus: The purchase is tax-free and tax-deductible.

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9. Foster a military member's pet.
As those YouTube videos of deployed military members reuniting with their furry friends prove, pets sure do miss their owners when they're off serving. NetPets makes the transition for dogs, cats, birds and even horses smoother by offering temporary care and shelter at foster homes. If you're open to providing some creature comforts, register your house online. Servicemen and women cover all pet-related expenses, such as food and veterinary visits.

10. Donate to military families' specific needs.
Financial issues are among the many challenges faced by military families when a spouse gets deployed. Making rent payments and home repairs become even more difficult when the serviceman or woman is injured or doesn't return home. Military families and retired veterans can get help by detailing how much they need for rent, medical bills and more to Operation Homefront. Their requests are then posted online for others to fulfill. Any amount of money is accepted, so even the smallest of donations can bring a military family closer to paying for a child's dental bill or a car repair.

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