Deployments are difficult for the whole family. There are many resources and non-profit organizations available that provide freebies, discounted products and support to deployed soldiers and their loved ones on the homefront during their time apart. Check out the list below! Most of these accept donations as well if you would like to be a blessing to a military family!
For the Deployed Soldier During Deployment
- AdoptaPlatoon: This resource sends care packages to deployed troops of all branches.
- Any Soldier: This resource sends packages to deployed troops NOT individuals. To qualify, you must be familiar with their Any Soldier concept in passing on the packages to troops that get little to no mail AND be Active Duty U.S. Military (of Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy, includes National Guard and Reservists on Active Duty) AND be stationed outside of the US AND have at least 4 months left in the country or on ship. You cannot apply until you are in the country. See the page for more details.
- Armed Services Ministry: This resource provides free Bible resources to the troops, Veterans and their families.
- Bibles for America: This resource provides free study versions of the New Testament as well as other Bible resources to the troops and their families.
- Books For Soldiers: This resource sends free books to deployed military.
- eCarePackage.org: This resource provides support and packages (from sponsoring families) to “adopted” military families before, during, and after deployments. Also known as H.E.R.O.E.S. Care. To register for support, go here.
- Everyone Serves: This is a free e-book that helps military families and their friends understand deployment and reintegration.
- Give2TheTroops: This resource sends large packages to be shared with your entire deployed troop, not just for individuals. To qualify, you must be a US Military servicemember deployed to combat or relief zones (as listed on the website.) This form is NOT to be filled out by family members of the deployed without permission from G2TT Headquarters.
- HeroBox: This resource sends care packages to deployed military and tries to fulfill items requested in the hero’s profile. You can register an entire unit for occasional bulk shipments as well as individuals for smaller, personal packages. HeroBox suggests you not only register your unit, but also each individual.
- Magazines for the Troops: This resource sends boxes of various magazines to deployed troops. Titles may include but are not limited to Discover, National Geographic, Rifleman, Us, Car and Driver, People, Reader’s Digest and more. If your troop has a lot of women, they also send boxes of strictly women magazines. Family members requesting help are encouraged but not required to donate to help with the postage.
- Military Devotional: This resource provides free downloadable devotional resources to the armed forces and veterans.
- Military Missions: This resource provides care packages to registered deployed military. You can register a hero as a family member or friend.
- MissYourVoice: This resource sends decorated care packages to deployed troops to show them they are thought of. Care packages will be sent free of charge if you can be paired with a sponsor. Packages are also available for purchase starting at $43, shipping included.
- Operation Care and Comfort: This resource sends care packages to “adopted” troops in conflict areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan once a month until they return.
- Operation Courage is Beautiful: This resource provides personal and beauty care items to deployed servicewomen to “bring joy and femininity to their service lives.” To qualify, you need to be a currently deployed or soon-to-deploy US military servicewoman.
- Operation Gratitude: This resource provides care packages to deployed military in combat environments who receive combat pay. Both individuals and groups can qualify.
- Operation Hi Honey (Operation Hi Mom): This resource from Canvas On Demand allows deployed men and women to send a free 16″x20″ PixelPainted canvas print of a favorite photo to their spouses for their anniversaries or to their moms for Mother’s Day. Recipients are chosen weekly at random from applicants. Be sure to apply at least 6 weeks before the event.
- Operation Shoebox: This resource provides care packages to individuals, platoons, units and battalions who are deployed. They also have other programs that send Christmas goodies, assign classrooms to troops that they will write, set up pen pals and more!
- Operation Troop Appreciation: This resource allows deployed troops to fill out request forms for items they are in need or want of to be given to each individual in the unit or shared by all. Individual requests are not accepted.
- Soldier’s Angels: This resource sends cards, letters and care packages to “adopted” deployed soldiers of all branches who. If your soldier is already receiving regular care packages, they do not qualify as this is to reach out to those who are not currently being supported, however, if you would still like non-adopted help, you can contact them. There are also programs for wounded warriors and veterans.
- Soldier’s Bible Ministry: This resource provides complete Old and New Testament Bibles to the US and allied troops as well as study materials to the troops and their families.
- Treat the Troops: This resource sends a variety of homemade cookies to deployed troops. Requests must be placed at least 2 months prior to the troop’s return date to ensure the cookies arrive before they leave.
- USO & Rocketlife-Myphotoproducts.com: This resource allows military families to send a completely free 5×7 20-page softcover photo book to their deployed loved one.
- VoiceQuilt: This resource allows you to record audio messages over a toll-free number to send to your deployed service member as a downloadable MP3 or link. You also have the option to purchase CDs, a mini boom box and other gifts to put your recording on if you choose. For military, following this link, you will receive three days of unlimited phone messages for free (valued at $9.95.)
For the Families During Deployment
- Build-a-Sign: This resource provides families of deployed troops with free “Welcome Home” banners, jumbo cards and yard signs to show your support for your loved one.
- eCarePackages.org: This resource provides support and packages (from sponsoring families) to “adopted” military families before, during, and after deployments. Also known as H.E.R.O.E.S. Care. To register for support, go here.
- GreenCare/SnowCare: This resource from Project EverGreen provides lawn care and snow care to the families of deployed military members where there is a volunteer available.
- HeartsApart: This resource provides free pre-deployment photos and newborn photos (to those whose deployed member cannot be home for the birth due to military obligations.) Military servicemen and women receive portraits printed on bi-folded waterproof and durable cards that they can carry with them. The family will receive a DVD with the session and rights to the photos.
Everyone Serves: This is a free e-book that helps military families and their friends understand deployment and reintegration.
- Operation Homelink: This resource provides lower-paygrade units with refurbished computers (usually E5 and below) to keep in touch with their families. Individual requests are not accepted; chosen troops are selected by local companies who choose to partner and provide computers. If you know a company in your area who may be interested in making a donation, be sure to contact Operation Homelink.
- Operation Love ReUnited: This resource provides up to two free photo sessions per year for families needing pre-deployment, saying goodbye, already deployed and homecoming pictures taken. All sessions have a patriotic theme and the service member must be in uniform. Pre-deployment photos will provide your deployed service member with a 4×6 album of at least 15 digital images. Goodbye photos provide a “final documentary-style” CD with at least 15 images on it to the family to decide what to do with. Homecoming photos will provide either a 4×6 album or CD with at least 15 photos. Check the site to find a registered photographer near you.
Play Pass: This resource provides single Airmen and families of deployed US AIR FORCE/ANG/AFR members with a $500 pass that can be used for various fun activities such as signing kids up for sports, hourly childcare, Great Wolf Lodge, etc. Sign up at your local Airman Family Readiness Center. You will also receive another $500 pass when your loved one returns.This program ran out of funding and ended on 3/31/2014.
- Soldier’s Angels Day of the Deployed: This resource plans events for the deployed and their families on October 26 and encourages businesses to provide help to families of the deployed such as raking leaves or doing chores.
- Yellow Ribbon Events: This resource sets up events for families of deployed military. The site states this is for Reserves and Guard, but our base provides this for all families with deployed loved ones so be sure to ask!
- Ask Your Key Spouse: There are many other events on each base for families of deployed spouses. Ask your Key Spouse, watch for events on base, keep in touch with fellow spouses and talk to your readiness center to figure out what other events you can participate in! For instance, our base is having an ice cream social for the families with deployed loved ones just as a time to talk to other spouses going through the same tough times and to get out and have a little fun!
For the Spouses During Deployment
- Everyone Serves: This is a free e-book that helps military families and their friends understand deployment and reintegration.
- Full Circle Home: This resource allows deployed service members to send home special care packages to their wives and mothers for Christmas and Mother’s Day to show them they are loved and supported. Package requests are limited. These boxes include hand written notes, pampering products and more!
- Give Parents a Break: This resource offers free childcare on certain days of the month during deployments so the spouse can get out and get some things done. I know this is offered for the Air Force and I saw something about it for the Army too so be sure to ask your readiness center for your branch. Currently this is halted due to the Furlough but it should start back up again sometime in October 2013.
- Support Military Spouses: This resource gives Shoeboxes full of donated goodies to military spouses of active duty military. My friend and I just got one each when our husbands deployed and it was such a blessing. It was given to our husbands to give to us form the readiness center on our base. My box included things like encouraging cards, a New Testament, earrings, body wash, a free cookie from Chick-Fil-A and more! They also provide Pampering Packs and Caring Cards as well as devotionals, financial help and occupational opportunities.
For the Expectant Spouses During Deployment
- Operation Shower: This resource is for military families who are expecting a new baby during or just after a deployment. To qualify, you must have a spouse/partner who is currently deployed or deploying at some point during the pregnancy, be active duty with a group that is deploying or have a spouse/partner who was injured during a deployment. All branches are eligible. You will need to apply and if there is a baby shower in your area you will be contacted but you are not guaranteed a shower in your area. Moms who participate will receive a “Shower in a Box” that contains goodies donated by companies and organizations.
- Operation Top Knot: This resource from Soldier’s Angels provides support to infants and pregnant mommies going through deployments. To qualify, you must have a deployed parent or active duty military servicewoman AND be expecting a child or have one under the age of two. If you are pregnant or a new mom in a special circumstance such as having a husband who is NOT deployed BUT is stateside/wounded/veteran you can qualify as well. If you do qualify, you will receive gifts in the mail near your due date month as will your new baby’s big brothers/big sisters. Your deployed service member will also receive an “It’s a Boy!” or “It’s a Girl!” bubble gum cigar at his deployed station. You must apply no earlier than 3 months prior to your due date.
- Skype Baby: This resources is available at USO centers in countries of deployed soldiers and provides them with internet and Skyping abilities allowing them to “be there” for the birth of their new baby. My husband and I just used this and it was so comforting being able to see and hear him while I was going through a rough childbirth. My husband also received a USO baby onesie! The base he was at prior offered special “Daddy” shirts as well.
- Star-Spangled Babies: This resource from Operation Homefront is for military families going through deployments or in need of financial assistance. To qualify in most locations, the expectant mommy must have a deployed, wounded, or junior/mid grade service members, however, qualifications may vary by location. Moms attending a shower will receive gifts that have been donated. To find a baby shower in your area, keep an eye on your local Operation Homefront website/Facebook page. Find your nearest location here.
- Stork Vision Ultrasounds: This resource provides duplicate CD-ROMs of your 3D or 4D ultrasound to your deployed or soon-to-deploy spouse. Packages vary by Stork Vision locations and be sure to ask about a military discount on your ultrasound package.
- Tiny Tots: This brand new resource from the USO is currently available at bases in Southwest Asia (Afghanistan and Kuwait) upon request. It allows service members to send a “Welcome Baby” package home to their wife and infant. My husband and I were one of the first recipients of this wonderful program and found it such a blessing when a package arrived at my doorstep with USO baby gear and some baby essentials.
For the Kids During Deployments
- Battalion Buddy Program: This resource from Operation Gratitude provides special teddy bears to children who have a military parent deployed/deploying overseas. Family Readiness Officers and battalion leaders, e-mail BattalionBuddy@gmail.com for more information on requesting a Battalion Buddy package.
- Daddy Dolls: This resource has dolls with photos of the child’s deployed parent, dog tags, blankets and more that you are able to purchase for your child.
- Dog Tags for Kids: This resource sends engraved dog tags to children with a deployed parent. The dog tags say things like “With love from Dad, U.S. Air Force, Afghanistan 2013″ and are requested by the service members to be sent to their children.
- Operation Give a Hug: This resource gives dolls with a picture of the deployed parent’s face on it to children who have a parent deployed overseas.
- Operation Hug-A-Hero: This non-profit resource from Daddy Dolls gives dolls with the deployed parent’s picture on it to qualifying military children. Families must meet one of the following qualifications (listed in order of priority) to receive a Hug-A-Hero doll: 1) Families of fallen heroes, 2) A family with a community services referral from a Chaplain, school counselor, etc., 3) Children with special needs registered with the EFM program, 4) Household income, 5) Number and age of children in household, 6) Date of deployment, 7) Length of deployment.
- Operation Kid Comfort: This resource from the Armed Services YMCA provides children 6 and under with a memory quilt and 7 and up with a memory pillow to children with a deployed parent. Must pay a shipping fee of $10 per quilt and $5 per pillow to cover costs.
- Operation Purple: This resource for children/families going through deployments, reintegration, or coming together after injury, offers special programs such as summer camp, retreats and healing adventures.
- A Story Before Bed: This resource allows the deployed or deploying parent to record a free digital book from selected titles for their children.
- Sweet Dreams Picture Pillow Project: This resource sends pillow cases with a deployed mommy or daddy’s picture on it to children missing a parent. To qualify, one active duty parent must be deployed and away from home for over 3 months.
- United Through Reading: This resource from the USO allows deployed parents to record themselves reading a children’s book onto a DVD which is sent to their kids. This program is only available at certain locations (listed here) but you can request the USO bring the program to another location not listed, but they recommend you send the request at least a few months prior to the deployment.
- Check Your Readiness Center: Each base has their own freebies for deployments whether it is on base or a non-profit off base. Our base, for instance, has something at the Airman Family Readiness Center called REST where you can get a free pillow case with your deployed hero’s picture on it. This can be for you, for your Airman, for your children–they only ask you bring extra white pillow cases if you get more than one.
**Check out these other sites for more listings of deployment freebies and resources:
**Other things to take advantage of during deployments:
- Don’t like your television providers, etc.? Many companies, such as Direct TV, will allow you early cancellation with no fees if you provide your orders.
- Have USAA insurance? Let them know your spouse is deploying and they will see if you qualify for discounts on your insurance plan while your loved one is away. Other companies may do this as well for military families so be sure to ask!
- Have a smartphone? We just started using the Voxer app on our Androids! This is a free app that your loved one can use to send text messages, audio messages and photos. Your phone doesn’t need to have service so you won’t have to pay the outrageous long-distance texting or calling fees. As long as your deployed loved one has WiFi available, you’re golden! It may not work perfectly and sometimes lags due to the time difference, but this app has been such a blessing to us as Skype does not often work too great where my husband is at. Another app we just started using that I love is the FREE magicJack app! This app allows you to make free phone calls to US and Canadian numbers as well as to other magicJack users! You can use this app for free without an account, or you can sign up for a free account to receive your own magicJack number (that you can give to friends and family if they have the app as well or so they can save it in their contacts to know when you’re calling) as well as voicemail! Pairs best with WiFi or 4G (my husband uses WiFi so it doesn’t use his data.) So far the quality has been great!
- Need Shipping Boxes? You can order free large (12″x12″x5.5″) flat rate shipping boxes (to APOs) from USPS.com. They come in packs of 10 or 25. The current flat rate shipping price is $14.85 but you can get this price down to only $13.30 when you print the label at home using Click-N-Ship! You will need to fill out a customs form which can be tricky, so if you have any issues, just call 1-800-ASK-USPS. They are very helpful. Calculate your postage to the zip code provided and it will show you a list of items that are not allowed to that zip code (I.E. pork products, alcohol, etc.) When you are ready to print your label, go here and you will select UNITED STATES for APO addresses and the state will be AA, AE or AP (look at the last letter given to you behind APO, I.E. APOE would be AE.) You will then select large flat rate and the price will adjust accordingly for the APO.
Disclaimer: I have not tried all of these, simply found them online doing research. If you choose to apply for any of these, you should do your own research about the ones you'd like to apply for to make sure you know the extra details and requirements. Please be kind to the rules provided in each as well.
–Know of any other programs local to your area or specific to your military branch? Share below in the comments! I’d love to “meet” my military families. Post up a photo of your military family on my Facebook wall and let me know what branch you represent!
~By Alyssa Darby.