By Danielle DeSimone
As military supporters, the phrase “I support the troops” is a familiar one. We say it often, proudly display it on our cars’ bumper stickers and show it by donating to military support organizations.
But what does it mean to support the military, and why? Why is it important to support the military? Here are a few crucial reasons to support service members and their families:
1. Members of the military community make incredible sacrifices on our behalf
In their everyday lives, the military community makes sacrifices that can often go unnoticed by their civilian neighbors – whether that be the high-stress challenges of a service member’s daily duties; the struggle of a military spouse looking for another job after relocating for the fourth time; or even a military child adjusting to a new school and new friends after a move to a new duty station.
Service members and military families selflessly do whatever it takes to serve the nation.
This means months or years spent apart from loved ones, families divided by distance and war zones; it includes military spouses giving birth alone in a hospital room, with no spouse there to support them; and it means being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice – that is, service members who are willing to lay down their lives on the front lines for our safety.
As Americans who benefit directly from service members’ sacrifices, supporting the military is the least we can do as an expression of gratitude for all that they are willing to give up to ensure our freedoms.
2. Service members and military families are people too – and are members of our community
Service members are simply ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It is important to support the military because service members are in fact members of your own community. They are your neighbor, your teacher, your soccer coach.
When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, the National Guard was there, rescuing citizens stranded in flooded houses. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the National Guard stepped up again, administering COVID-19 tests, supporting overwhelmed hospitals with military medical staff and delivering supplies from food banks. As with most National Guard deployments, a majority of these service members were local, deployed within their home state to help the communities they are a part of.
Similarly, active-duty service members who could be living down the street from you are often some of the first to respond to overseas conflict, leaving behind their loved ones at a moment’s notice to head into harm’s way.
When you and your community are in need, members of the military are there for you – and so it’s only right to be there for them as well.
3. Service members ensure our freedom and safety around the world
From the battlefields of the American Revolution to the front lines of Eastern Europe, American service members have been ensuring the freedom of America and its allies for centuries. In recent memory, our nation’s troops have been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, on-call 24/7 to ensure the safety to the U.S. and our allies, and positioned around the world to deter aggression that would threaten the peaceful world order.
Service members are a force for good in the world, which is why it is crucial we stand behind them.
4. Being there for the military community helps improve morale and operational readiness
Military life can take its toll on service members and military families. For example, military spouses can often struggle to find their place in a new duty station, because they have moved so frequently and are isolated from their support networks – in addition to perhaps having difficulty finding work. And if a service member is weighed down by stress on the front lines or concerns about their struggling family back home, it can be more difficult for them to carry out their missions.
With mental health being a serious issue among today’s troops, not addressing these morale and mental wellness issues can lead to even greater problems. That’s why it’s crucial to support service members to help improve morale – not only to keep spirits high, but also to ensure operational readiness.
Love what you’re reading? Sign up to get more USO stories!
With more than 250 locations around the world, service members can turn to their local USO center for a home away from home. By providing a supportive environment and programs, the USO can help service members feel more connected to one another and their families, even when they are in places like Iraq, Poland or just south of the North Korean border.
However, support from their local, civilian communities is crucial for morale as well.
Studies have shown, that only 19% of service members and military spouses feel that their civilian neighbors truly understand the sacrifices made by local military and veteran families. Even more disheartening is the fact that according to the Blue Star Families 2022 Military Family Lifestyles Survey, only 33% of active-duty family respondents said that they feel a sense of belonging to their local civilian community.
That is why, as military supporters, it is crucial to actively support service members and their families.
Something as easy as thanking a service member for their service or acknowledging the immense challenges of life as a military spouse can have a real, positive impact on the military community. Donating to military support organizations such as the USO, which can transform your support into tangible services on the front lines and in military communities back home, can also have an immense effect on service members and their families.
By bridging that divide between civilians and the military, Americans can show military community members that the work they do on behalf of this country is valued and appreciated – boosting their morale and preparing them for yet another day in the field, where they are protecting us and our families.
5. It’s the Right Thing to Do
When USO Global Ambassador and country music star Kellie Pickler was asked why she donates her time and talents to perform for the troops with the USO, her response was simple: “Why not?” she said. “Why not be a part of something that matters? Why not do the right thing?”
Supporting service members and military families is the right thing to do. After all that they have sacrificed, after all that they have been willing to give for both this nation and their local communities, it is crucial to pay it forward and to support the military wherever and whenever they may need us.
-This story was originally published on USO.org in 2021. It has been updated in 2023.
More Stories Like This
5 Ways You Can Support the Troops in Times of Conflict
As tensions rise throughout the Middle East, Americans all around the country are asking one thing: what can we do to support the troops? While our men and women in uniform are facing dangers on the front lines, here are a few ways to ensure that service members and military families are remembered and supported during times of conflict.
How to Send Care Packages to Troops with the USO
Not sure how to send a care package to the troops? Patriotic Americans can deliver care packages to service members deployed overseas through the USO, which just delivered its 3 millionth care package.
5 Things You Need to Know About Military Families
Want to know what life is really like for today’s service members, husbands, wives and children? Here are five things you need to know about military families.
More from the USO
Sep 26, 2023
Cesar Millan Announces the First-Ever USO Canine Volunteer of the Year
Watch Cesar Millan announce and congratulate the 2023 USO Canine Volunteer of the Year. These certified therapy dogs provide support to the people who serve and their military families at several of the 250+ USO Centers around the globe.
Sep 25, 2023
On the First Day of Basic Training, Coast Guard Recruits Can Turn to the USO for Support
Every Tuesday at Philadelphia International Airport, Coast Guard recruits heading to Cape May for basic training know they can turn to the USO to be there with them through every step of their military service -- including that very first day.