The holidays are a time of colder weather, good food, and sharing quality time with family and friends. Holiday parties are thrown, tacky christmas sweaters win contests, and children try to sneak a peak of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve or light the first candle for Hanukkah with their families.

For some families, there will be an empty seat at the table because they have a family member fighting for our country and away from loved ones. 1st Lieutenant Anthony Baros is in the Middle East with his Army National Guard unit from Colorado. His family put together a care package to help him get through the holidays and are trying to do their best to keep the holiday spirit alive and anxiously await his return, “We’re sending him pictures all the time just kinda’ keep him updated on life here and a lot of it is very quick, ‘Hey how are you. We’re good. We love you. We miss you,’” Baros’ wife Jen said.

For the Schnake family in Mequon,Wisconsin, they are coping by helping out those overseas in the Wisconsin National Guard. Ryan Schnake and his unit are serving at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and his family are baking a dozen cookies each for all 123 soldiers stationed at the base. “It wasn’t just about him. It was about the other 122 soldiers who couldn’t be home with their families. We sent them a little Italian love,” Debbie Schnake, Ryan’s mother, said.

Some families took part in a holiday celebration at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach, VA, and 600 military families received Christmas trees in Fort Benning, GA. It’s also not just humans coming home, but service dogs as well. Thanks to ‘Robby’s Law,’ service dog handlers are now able to adopt their four-legged counterparts and give them a home for the holidays. Regardless of how the holidays are celebrated, it’s a chance for us to give thanks to those who served and serve them in our own way.

There are ways for you to help members of the military and their families this holiday season. Care packages are a great way to let you loved ones know you care. Some things to add to a care package that will be helpful for your service member include:

  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Deodorant
  • Foot powder
  • Lip balm
  • Books
  • Magazines
  • DVDs
  • Their favorite snacks
  • Art projects from kids

Other ways to get involved include reaching out to local military hospitals to see how you can help disabled veterans who are recovering from injuries, both mental and physical, donating unused travel miles and entertainment tickets to military families, donating your car to a family in need, or just writing cards to those serving overseas and letting them know that they are not forgotten.

The Purple Heart Foundation would like to send warm regards this holiday season to all who are serving and have served as well as their families. Your service is appreciated by all.  You can show your support for these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure veterans continue to get the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.