Click here and click there, and the Internet reveals many ways people are reaching out to the military community. Programs run the gamut, employing hobbies, careers and financial resources. Through golf games and equestrian programs; through planes, pets and prayer, some Americans are doing more to support U.S. troops than just sticking yellow ribbons to their back bumpers.

Private pilots offer free flights to reunite wounded military members and families. Children and teens collect and donate everything from phone cards to Silly String to deployed troops. Quilters ply their needles to provide homemade comfort to grieving families and wounded soldiers.

However, you don’t have to go online to find people who are helping the military. Sometimes you don’t even have to go off base. Military family members shared their ideas and experiences — from both giving and receiving perspectives:

When we were stationed at Rhein-Main on our second tour, we did a program called “SUM MOM,” which stands for Single Unaccompanied Military Munch or Mend.

My mom and other ladies at the base would gather at the base chapel and cook all day. They would usually make spaghetti, salad, bread and dessert.

My best friend and I were in high school, and we would come after school to help out. Other ladies at the base chapel would volunteer their sewing expertise and sew on patches, etc., for the airmen while they had dinner. We would talk to the airmen and clean up after everyone had eaten.

It was a great experience. I know they appreciated a home-cooked meal and the “feeling” of being in a family-type environment.

— Amy Shields

When we lived in Savannah, Ga., our church would host a “Mom’s afternoon out.” This happened right after church. Other families and teenaged volunteers would watch the children at the church, feed the children lunch and give a mom (me) an afternoon out for about three hours to herself while her husband was deployed.

I remember that it was just an amazing boost to my energy level to focus on myself for that little bit of time, get a cup of coffee and just read a book at Barnes and Noble without having to make sure the children didn’t tear the kids section apart.

Our neighbor, Kevin, would mow our yard every other week for me when Charles was gone. It was a nice break from having to do outside and inside chores all of the time.My friend Lindsey had older children and they would come down after school and play with my kids for an hour or so while I made dinner. But it was nice because the whole family supported the children and me while Charles was deployed.

The big life lesson was that it doesn’t take a lot of money to show support for our troops and their families, just a little bit of your own personal time.

It means so much to the families that are separated for long periods and not to mention a huge morale booster to know that you have someone that is willing to help out. Loving your neighbor as yourself was put into action at our wonderful church , Trinity Lutheran Church in Savannah, Ga., on Mercy Blvd. (my favorite address by the way!!) Those are just a few examples that come to mind for me.

— Rebecca Hartford

These stories are reminders that individuals and small groups can make a big difference. Share your own ideas on the Spouse Calls blog:

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany, where her husband is stationed at Ramstein AB. Send questions or comments to her at

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