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Remembering fallen military members and helping their families on Memorial Day 2016 (and beyond)

More than 1 million men and women have died during U.S. military service. Memorial Day is when we take special time to remember them and their ultimate sacrifice.


To ensure the ultimate hallowed duties of America's fallen heroes are never forgotten, The National Moment of Remembrance Act was enacted in December 2000. This law created the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance.

The Commission's charter is to "encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity" by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. "It's a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day," noted Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada.

Doing more than a minute: That's a nice gesture, but those who have lost a husband or wife or sister or brother or mother or father who was serving in the U.S. Armed Forces need more than just our 60-second remembrance on one day a year.

Mental Health America suggests some groups that can help families dealing with the loss of a military loved one.

Contact your local Mental Health America or the Mental Health America for information on mental health, mental illness, treatment options, and local treatment/support services. You can contact Mental Health America at 1-800-969-6642 (toll-free) or at its website, www.mentalhealthamerica.net.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Inc. assists people who have lost family members in the Armed Forces. Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, provides a survivor-peer support network, grief counseling referrals, and crisis information and can be reached at 1-800-959-TAPS (8277) or www.taps.org.

The Army Family Assistance Hotline is 1-800-833-6622, and the Army Reservist Hotline is 1-800-318-5298.

The Coast Guard Reserve website is http://reserve.uscg.mil/mbr_resources.asp.

The number for Marine Corps Community Service Centers West of the Mississippi is 1-800-253-1624; and, east of the Mississippi, the number is 1-800-336-4663.

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website contains information on and applications for compensation, health, burial, special programs, and other benefits. Contact www.va.gov.

The following military family service-related websites include information and networking:  www.armytimes.comwww.navytimes.comwww.airforcetimes.com, and www.marinecorpstimes.com

Working with military kids: TAPS caught my eye, in part because its work to help children deal with the loss of a military parent was featured in an NPR All Things Considered report.  

My dad was a U.S. Navy veteran. I am fortunate that he fulfilled his duties for Uncle Sam without incident. I lost my father when I was an adult and that was incredibly difficult then. I cannot imagine how a child copes, especially when a parent is younger and passes away in another country in while serving in the U.S. military.

I applaud the work of groups like TAPS. There are many others, such as Children of Fallen Heroes, Children of Fallen Patriots, Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund, and Snowball Express.

I'm sure I've missed others, especially since I didn't even include the many other general military-focused groups that also support surviving families, both in meeting daily needs and helping children go to college.

If you know of reputable nonprofits that focus on helping young people who have lost a parent to military service, please add them in the comments section below.

Checking our military and all charities: All of the groups I listed are 501(c)(3) nonprofits, meaning they have received tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service and any donations you make are tax deductible if you follow the IRS' charitable giving rules.

If you'd like to do more today -- or any day -- for children dealing with the loss of a military parent, please check them out, and I mean that literally.

While all these nonprofits are suggested by me, and which also made other military-focused websites' lists of groups to support, note their IRS-approved tax status on their websites, you need to do more than just take my and their word for it. Double check that the groups' goals and how they meet them also mesh with your personal standards for charitable organizations.

Beware charity scams: Such diligence is a good idea when considering giving to any charity. Not only will it ensure that your gift does what you want, from donation and tax deduction perspectives, it will protect you from crooks.

Yes, there are terrible people who set up fake charities and then try to use emotional hooks like Memorial Day to get your money for themselves, not for military families who must go on after the momentous loss of a loved one.

Make sure you check out the charities, pick one that truly helps in the way you support and honor the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in a legitimate and ongoing way.

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