With Military Appreciation Month upon us, we are presented with the opportunity to give to those who serve our nation in the armed forces and show our gratitude. There are different ways to show appreciation to those in the U.S. military during Military Appreciation Month. For some, it means thanking veterans and current members of the military for their service. For others, it can mean anonymously picking up the tab for a nearby table of soldiers eating lunch.
There are numerous ways to support members of the military during May, but you can also donate to military charities which directly support veterans and members of active duty, National Guard, and Reserve components. But navigating the massive field of military charities can be tricky. For example, there are some so-called military charities that are legal on paper, but essentially there are folks leading the military charities who have managed to parlay a hobby into a charity. Donors unwittingly pay the cost for the charity’s leader to do their hobby and they include veterans so it fulfills a charitable mission.
With that said, the venerated veterans of USAMM got together and came up with this short list of our top five military charities listed in no particular order. We have all either been personally touched by these military charities or we know someone who has been positively impacted by them.
1. The Independence Fund
Founded in 2007, The Independence Fund is one of the top military charities committed to serving the warfighter community by providing innovative programs and services to support the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual independence of servicemembers, combat veterans, their caregivers, families, and those allies who served in combat alongside our troops, through innovative mobility and adaptive technologies and therapies for combat veterans; suicide prevention; caregiver and family support; and veteran advocacy with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, other government agencies, federal and state legislators, and other partners.
The Independence Fund also has a 100 percent rating (as of April 1, 2023), four stars, the top score from Charity Navigator, an independent charity reviewing organization. USAMM contributes to the Independence Fund regularly and works closely with members of the organization. That's an indicator that this is a great organization to contribute to.
Since 1941, the USO has been one of the nation’s leading military charities. The USO operates centers at or near military installations across the United States and throughout the world, including in combat zones, and even unstaffed USO service sites in places too dangerous for anyone but combat troops to occupy.
USO airport centers throughout the country offer around-the clock hospitality for traveling service members and their families. It is a place where weary service members can grab a snack, recharge and relax. The USO has more than 250 centers in countries on every continent. The USO is also responsible for USO tours that bring celebrities to service members who are assigned far from home, to entertain them.
The USO’s Charity Navigator rating is 88 percent, three stars, (as of April 1, 2023). While that is a “good” score from Charity Navigator, there should be no reason for alarm. The USO is still recommended by USAMM and Charity Navigator and you can donate with confidence to the USO which is one of America’s oldest military charities. USAMM has been a longtime donor of the USO.
3. Wounded Warrior Project
The mission of Wounded Warrior Project is to honor and empower wounded warriors. Like the USO, WWP is one of the more popular military charities known primarily because of their celebrity endorsements and television commercials, but also because of the great work they do. WWP’s purpose is to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women; to help severely injured service members aid and assist each other; and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of severely injured service members.
Years ago, WWP was the subject of some scrutiny, but as of April 1, 2023, they receive an 89 percent rating, three stars on Charity Navigator. This is one of those military charities that is a safe investment. And much like the Independence Fund, their focus is on helping those who have been wounded in combat.
4. Gary Sinise Foundation
The Gary Sinise Foundation is another one of the USAMM veterans’ favorite military charities because they serve the nation by honoring defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. They do this by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities. But let’s face it, who doesn’t love, Lt. Dan and the popular Lt. Dan Band?
While a lot of military charities are focused on a particular issue or demographic of veterans, the Gary Sinise Foundation has a wide reach and depth of programs to help the military community. For example, since it was created in 2011, the Gary Sinise Foundation has provided 52 specially adapted cars to wounded veterans, and 81 specially adapted smart homes have been completed for severely wounded veterans.
The Gary Sinise Foundation received a 98 percent, four-star rating from Charity Navigator (as of April 1, 2023).
5. Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation
The Veterans of Foreign Wars is one of the nation’s oldest veterans’ organizations. Separately, it has a non-profit foundation, the VFW Foundation, which seeks to provide unique and urgently needed services that improve the lives of veterans, military personnel and their families.
During deployments, the VFW Foundation was responsible for providing long-distance communication options for troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and military hospitals through the distribution of telephone cards (almost 10,000,000 so far) and cyber café calling days; financial grants for military families in need to help pay for rent, mortgage, utilities, medical treatment and food; assistance for veterans in the filing of entitlement claims with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; and patriotic student essay contests that award money for college to America's youth; etc. All VFW Foundation programs are free and require no VFW-affiliation for assistance.
Many USAMM employees are members of the VFW including our USAMM CEO. This is one of those military charities near and dear to our hearts.
The VFW Foundation received an 88 percent, three-star rating from Charity Navigator.
Remember, if you are unable to donate financially, there are numerous military charities that can use the gift of your talents and your time. Time, talent, or treasure are the greatest things we can offer those who have served our nation.
If there is a reputable military charity you would like to raise awareness of that we may have left off our list, please comment below with a link to the organization.