When my husband decided to leave the active duty military in 1998, I was relieved beyond words. He was in Air Force communications, and although his job didn’t require him to deploy for long time periods, it did put him into hostile territory — at that time, it was Bosnia-Herzegovina. But we both knew that he’d joined at a lucky time, after the first Iraq war and before whatever lurked ahead, and that Bosnia would eventually seem like a walk in the park compared to future military deployments.

He continues to support the military in his present job, with a fervor that’s perhaps stronger than when he was still on active duty. When he returned to civilian life, I’m the one whose ties to the military were almost completely cut. And lately, as casualties mount in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve been feeling that my small gestures of support are more and more futile.

But a couple of weeks ago — before the shootings in Texas, ironically — I decided that I was going to make donations to military-related causes for those on my Christmas list. To get myself in the spirit of the season, I’d planned to attend the Operation Shower fundraiser at Monarch last weekend. It’s a nonprofit that throws baby showers for moms-to-be with military ties. Unfortunately, a sick babysitter quashed that plan. But that’s such small potatoes compared to what deployed servicemembers are going through that I hardly dared whine.

There are tons of other opportunities to lend financial support, sometimes where you’d least expect them.  For example, at work the other day I was looking up some literature on children’s emotional well-being and came across a plea for donations of books on marital relationships to soldiers and their spouses.  It’s from John Gottman, a very respected expert who cites startlingly sad statistics on miliary marriages.

I suppose my former status as a military spouse predisposes me to support these kinds of family-related efforts, but there are tons and tons of others — everything from doing yard work at the homes of those who’re deployed to sending care packages, either as part of a group like The Care Package Project or on your own. (If you choose that option, the deadline for the cheapest holiday shipping rate to Iraq and Afghanistan  is Nov. 13; visit the Missouri VFW homepage for details.)  Heck, if you’re flying through Atlanta or Dallas or Bangor, Maine, you could even join the troop greeters, as seen in tonight’s PBS documentary.