Reuniting wounded warriors and loved ones for the holidays

The joy of a Navy family being reunited (U.S. Navy photo).

The joy of a Navy family being reunited (U.S. Navy photo).

The holidays provide opportunities to spend quality time with our loved ones. Whether that includes decorating a Christmas tree, lighting a Hanukkah menorah or a Kwanzaa kinara, attending a religious service or a parade, celebrating the New Year, or just being together.

During this holiday season, many wounded, ill and injured Service members and Veterans may be recovering at hospitals far away from their hometowns, families and friends. However, there are resources available to give these wounded warriors and their loved ones opportunities to share special holiday traditions during the season and create new memories together year-round.

“The American public understands the importance of bringing Service members and their families together be it for recovery, therapeutic or celebratory events,” said Barbara Lewandrowski, Charitable Giving Coordinator for the U.S. Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment.

The nonprofit Fisher House Foundation administers the “Hero Miles” program, which is comprised of eight airlines whose passengers donate their frequent flyer miles to assist Service members and their families. Specifically, Fisher House Foundation provides free airline tickets to eligible Service members—who are undergoing treatment at a military or Veterans Affairs Medical Center due to their service in Iraq or Afghanistan—and their families. The Hero Miles program is administered for the Department of Defense in accordance with the Fiscal Year 2005 Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 108-375, Section 58).

“The donated miles programs have had an overwhelming response with donated miles in the hundreds of thousands,” said Lewandrowski.

Other organizations provide transportation assistance through established networks. Air Care Alliance is a nationwide league of humanitarian flying organizations whose volunteer pilot members perform air transportation for those in situations of compelling human need. National Association of American Veterans, through corporate sponsors, provides an outreach transportation service to medical centers in the Washington, DC, area so Service members and Veterans can receive more visits from family members who don’t live close by or cannot afford the trips. These are just a few examples of programs that bring wounded warriors and their families together as part of the healing process.

Lewandrowski adds, “Major miles programs, small non-profits, private jet companies, and privately owned aircrafts are always available.” She continued that this is “a resource which aids in the recovery and transition of all wounded, ill and injured.”

Wounded warriors and their loved ones can have a long and difficult recovery ahead of them, but spending time together can give them an emotional boost to get through the holiday season and rehabilitation. To find more programs that assist Service members, Veterans and their families with travel arrangements and other services, visit the National Resource Directory.