While November is the time to show gratitude, none is more important than giving thanks to military families. Since 1996, November has been designated Military Family Month, thanks to the Armed Services YMCA and the President. Each year, the President of the United States signs a proclamation to ensure November continues to be designated as Military Family Month. This month provides an opportunity to honor and support military families during the month and throughout the year.

What makes a military family?

Military families are diverse and do not always look the same. Some are blended families, some do not have children, and many have at least one child of their own. It’s important to recognize that while some families are much larger than others, they all have so much in common. They embody strength, resilience, flexibility, and sacrifice. Military families know how precious time together is. Those moments are cherished memories that will get them through times apart.

There are many ways to celebrate military families this month. Below are a few ideas that go beyond a verbal thank you.

How can you honor military families this month and all year long?

1-Send a note – Families much appreciate handwritten notes and cards. I’ll never forget a handwritten note I received in a care package from Support Military Families. It had been a tough year for our military family as we had suffered through pregnancy loss. That handwritten note of thanks made me tear up and touched my heart. You never know what military families are going through behind the scenes, and that note might be just what they needed that day.

2-Offer a meal – Military families are extremely busy, most especially those whose service member is deployed or away for training. Offering a meal, whether home-cooked or a gift card, can make a huge difference to that family and take a little stress off of them.

3-Learn about their unique way of life– A great way to honor military families is to learn about them. Allow military children to share about their families. Learn about the different branches and read books about military life to learn more. A few of my favorite military-themed children’s books are; Who is Sam the Soldier, Daddy Left with Mr. Army, When Mom Deploys, & When Dad Deploys. As a bonus, each book is written by a military spouse or veteran.

4-Support their businesses-Due to the unemployment and underemployment issues that military spouses and veterans face; many have opted to start their own businesses. You can support them by purchasing products from their businesses, which helps the entire military family.

5-Recognize all types of military families-Military families exist in all shapes and sizes. Just because a service member and spouse do not have children does not disqualify them from being considered a military “family.” Be sensitive to the fact that often times, those without children are usually struggling to have them. Invite all types of families to events and be inclusive of the many diverse military families that exist.

Throughout November, I encourage you to remember military families. They sacrifice so much and do not expect anything in return. Find a way to show them gratitude and know that it will be more than appreciated. The tiniest gesture can make a huge impact.