The problem: military family income is often low, leaving little room for extra expenses. Why you should keep reading: You’ll find some excellent little-known resources that provide food, furniture, bikes, and more to military families!
Did you know about all these opportunities at your base? Of course experiences vary at different locations around the country. But here are some of my favorite organizations that provide things military families get free.
This video highlights the resources military families get for free around the holidays:Did you know military families can get ALL THIS for FREE? #milspouse Click To Tweet
17 unique things military families get free
Christmas Trees: A program called Trees for Troops gives thousands of free Christmas trees to military bases every year. The program is sponsored by the Christmas Spirit Foundation. The pre-cut trees can be picked up on base, and are a great way to enjoy some cheer, especially if your spouse is deployed for the holidays.
Christmas Gifts: Local churches sometimes adopt my husband’s military unit. These groups work hard to generously provide gifts for military children. They are typically distributed at the unit Christmas party. Whether it is a toy, a stuffed animal, or an ornament, kids love receiving their own gift. It’s a sweet example of things military families get free at some locations.
Groceries: Many military families qualify for WIC vouchers from the government because of their low income. WIC gives us free vouchers to use for fresh produce, milk, cheese, peanut butter, juice, wheat bread, and cereal every month. Using WIC saves us 20% on groceries.
“Military kids can qualify for WIC vouchers and free school lunch to save you a ton on groceries!” ~The Seasoned Spouse
School Lunches: Because of low family income, military children often qualify for free or reduced lunch at school. This depends on the average income levels around your duty station.
Bikes: Some military families can’t afford to give their child a new bike for Christmas. But with help from the USO’s “That’s my Ride” Program, you can! Volunteers assemble thousands of bikes to give to needy families.
Quilts: During a parent’s deployment, military children can receive a free, personalized quilt from the ASYMCA. It will have the child’s name, and pictures of them with their deployed parent! The program is called Operation Kid Comfort.
Art Supplies: Every December, the program Art4Healing donates these great boxes of art supplies to our on-base school. Every single student receives one! It has paint, markers, pastels, crayons, pencils, and lots of paper. My kids love them, and I let them be artistic!
Backpacks and School Supplies: At the beginning of the school year, local church groups donated school supplies and backpacks to military kids on our base. One group donated through the base Vacation Bible School Program, but another group called Operation Homefront hosted a giveaway with backpacks for hundreds of military families.
Our military family is grateful for these free gifts, especially at Christmas! #milspouse Click To Tweet
Appliances and Furniture: It isn’t easy to find large things military families get free, but most bases have thrift store or on-base yard sale page where military families can share things with each other. Our base is also lucky to have a program run by generous volunteers from the local Rotary Club. They collect furniture and appliances from local stores, and give them away to military families.
Clothes and Shoes: Several times throughout the year, the local Assistance League has a massive giveaway of clothing and shoes for military children. Families must register in advance for the event. Every child receives 2 free outfits, a jacket, and a gift card to Payless Shoes! I almost cried when all 4 of my children got back-to-school outfits for free.
Diapers & Baby Wipes: Local volunteers often collect canned goods and baby items for military families. Free diapers are provided by the local chapters of the Assistance League.
National Parks Passes: Did you know military families get free admission to all National Parks? They do! These passes usually cost over $100, but military families can enter for free. Just show a military ID at the park entrance. You can also camp overnight at National Parks, (usually with a reservation in advance). Our family has camped at National Parks to save money during a cross-country PCS move.
Ball Gown: Most military units have an annual military ball, which is a formal event. Military families look forward to this night out, when the service member wears their finest dress uniform. But military wives don’t need to buy a new ball gown every year. I have never bought mine! I either trade with a friend, or get one from the base ball gown giveaway. Nationally, you can get one form Operation Deploy Your Dress. On our base, these are sponsored by the ASYMCA or the Bells of Freedom.
Museum/Zoo Admission: Through the Blue Star Museums program, military families can receive free admission at museums throughout the country! Often, you can enter by showing a military ID at the door, but it is smart to check the specific website first and see if you can print tickets in advance. In the past year, we have visited the Zoo, Sea World, and the Children’s Museum– all for free! You can also check with your ITT office on base for local discount tickets.
Care package materials: During deployment, many military spouses send care packages. The cost of filling and shipping is expensive enough. Did you know you can get the packaging materials for free from the USPS? You can order your free package online! Visit my Care Package Pinterest board for tons of decorating ideas.
Swim lessons and Classes: On most military bases, children can take swim lessons for free, or a low price. Youth Sports offers a variety of sports throughout the year. Check with your base MWR office for a schedule. There may also be military discounts for community programs off-base.
Homecoming Banners: The best part of a deployment is Homecoming! You can welcome your hero home with a FREE sign from Build-a-Sign. They offer signs and banners to military members for free. You will only pay for shipping. Visit the Build-a-Sign Troops website to design your custom banner and upload a photo.
Do you have these free programs on your base? What interesting things have you received for free?
We consistently make use of the national parks pass! It is a wonderful blessing.
Great! We love it too! Any National Park makes a great (and affordable ) family vacation. 🙂
Wow, my husband has been in the service for 24 years and we never received anything free!
Some bases have better resources than others, you just have to know where to look! I’m all about free stuff, so I don’t mind waiting in lines.
My husband is a Vietnam Veteran, and we didn’t know anything about the FREE Admissions to anywhere either. About 3 years ago, we took a very OVER DUE week-end away together. We didn’t have a ton of money to blow, so we planned a 3 day in State but Out-Of-Town, couple of days ALONE ! Just the past 5-8 years He has started to wear his Veteran attire in public. Hats, T-shirts, Jackets, Unit patches and such. The public has finally become more aware of the sacrifices of our Service personnel and show greater respect and appreciation then in the past. We went to St.Augustine, here in Florida and visited all the old Spanish Forts and all of the Historical places offered in one of our states oldest cities. We were in line waiting to pay, and one of the cashiers/ticket sellers saw my husbands hat and said, “Sir?…Excuse Me, Sir?….The gentleman in the Veteran’s Hat?” They waved us to the front of their line….and said,”Are you a Veteran Sir?” He answered that he was from The United States Army. She asked if he had his Veteran I.D. so he took it out of his wallet and showed it to her. She said, “We Thank You for your Service Sir, and we are considered a Historical National Museum and Park. We are listed in the USA Parks and Museums which entitles you and 3 other guests (a total of 4) FREE Admission as our guests today and each and every day you would care to visit in the future. Then they gave us a really nice Laminated Brochure with ALL of the Parks in the USA that we could visit for FREE. We Never had a clue that we were entitled to such an awesome privilege. We started to go on line (the internet) when we got home from our weekend away, and looked up Benefits allowed for Veterans, Active Military Personnel and their families. We are looking forward to going to Patricks’ Air Force Base in 2 weeks to Christmas Shop at the Canteen. Merry Christmas Everyone!!!! The Steens, Vero Beach, Florida
I didn’t know you can get free furniture! I’m at Fort Irwin, CA do they have a program like that too? We just moved here and it would be a blessing if we got some furniture!
I’m not sure which programs are at your base. At ours, there is a Rotary Club giveaway, and some from a local church, too. Ask around with residents at your base, and see if there are free programs anyone uses. I hope you will be pleasantly surprised!
We have an Airmans Attic that gives away free furnature, clothes, toys, all kinds of things. We are AF but your base might have something similar.
Thank you both 🙂
Do you know if these also apply to retirees or just active duty?
These programs are all for active duty. SOME of them may also serve retirees, but it would depend on their resources. You would have to contact the relevant program to find out.
When our oldest was born we qualified for WIC…we couldn’t have survived without it. He has been in for 17 years now and chose to go to OCS 10 years ago. I’ve never known about most of these programs…Would have been nice to know about them back when we still qualified…Especially the quilt for your kids…would have been nice! Three more years!
I wish there were more of these programs available for those who don’t live on a base. We are USAREC. It’s a bit more isolated! It’s amazing to know that these programs are available. Sharing is caring and kindness is cool ❤️❤️
Thanks for stopping by Julia! Yes, I know so many remote assignments miss out on these types of resources. But some of them may deliver to remote locations, so that’s worth looking into.
This is a great resource for full time military families or national guard families that live near a base. But a lot of these programs don’t benefit all military families. My husband is a national guardsmen and the closest base is over 2 hours away. I love all these programs, our military families deserve all of it, just wish it would be more readily available to all military families.
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My Warrior’s Place and its supportive rograms were founded in honor of:
– all the brave military men and women who wore a military uniform and died while serving their country.
Dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of our vets, mil services members, first responders, Blue, Silver and Gold Star Families
I am trying to get a free labtop because I am going to do online college and am a veteran, honorable discharge. But, because I told them I needed counseling, they discharged me, at first with a dishonorable discharge. I was asking for counseling because I was sexually abused by my two older brothers and did not want to disgrace the uniform, especially because i was a barracks leader at the time. I was and am still a leader in my own right and have been in counseling and this action by the military really affected my life in a negative way when, I as young man gave up my education and life for this country willingly and now, can’t even receive any benefits. Only by the grace of God have my mind been restored to sanity and am working hard to become an addictions counselor and just passed my first semester, after being out of school, for more than 25 years. Even tough the military did me wrong as I promised to graduate, I went back and graduated the youngest and only one child of 5 to graduated and get my diploma, with no one at my graduation but God and the people God put in my life, and the only one ever to goto college. Please refer this email to anyone that can help me with veteran benefits and or someone that can help me achieve my dream to help others and or to help me with help getting a disability lawyer. Even, though I have HIV and MHMR, as well as 3 bulging discs I am not giving up, God Bless you and I pray for all who wear the uniform for America
Hi Fabian, thanks for stopping by. I commend you on your educational accomplishments, although I’m sorry to hear all the circumstances you have been through. I’m not aware of a program that provides free Laptops for veterans. However, if you are approved for FAFSA (federal aid) then I believe they include an incentive or discount designed to provide students with a laptop.
I’m sorry to hear that. Have you heard of Vet Centers? Based on what you wrote, you would qualify for services from them. They are part of the VA but they keep their records separate so it’s even more confidential. They offer individual, couples, and group therapy (they specialize in trauma) and often have flexible hours and specialty groups (such as a music therapy group). They can also help connect to services. Regarding help with VA disability benefits, reach out to Disabled American Veterans. Student Veterans of America is another resource worth looking into. Best wishes!
Thank you for sharing this great information! I sure wish there were more resources for reservists. Most reservists’ families live at least a hundred miles (often times more) away from bases without a support system of any kind. Most don’t live near family and friends don’t get it and are unreliable, leaving spouses and children feeling very isolated and alone. Reserve centers don’t care at all about what happens to the family once service members are deployed – their only mission is to make sure the service members are deployable.
I understand, I hear this complaint all the time from reservist families. It’s unfortunate the resources aren’t more balanced, but circumstances are very different between active duty and reserve families. However, there are Yellow Ribbon programs, the Our Military Kids scholarship program, and various community programs like the ASYMCA and USO that are open to National Guard and Reserve families. I have a few other posts about deployment benefits that would apply to your family. Check out this article: https://seasonedspouse.com/the-giant-list-of-deployment-resources-for-military-families/
We found out about the Ball Gown giveaway when my husband was stationed at a Marine Corps base, never heard of it at the Navy bases. The Ball Gown giveaway was so wonderful, and a few of them were able to offer some accessories, such as jewelry and small handbags. WIC was a real blessing to us and saved a great deal on groceries. Didn’t know about the Assistance League until after retirement, but we support our local chapter. Another great resource is the ASYMCA, we were able to get a free frozen turkey with all of the food for Thanksgiving dinner most years, as well as free new toys for the kids for Christmas. Lastly, some Military housing communities hold big Month of the Military Child events, and we were always able to get free clothing for the kids. Had to be bargain hunting ALOT during Active Duty, however, our kids never went without anything. Thank you for sharing these ideas.
These are great, thank you for sharing your experiences! I can certainly relate to the bargain hunting, but there are some incredible resources out there!
8/2021 – Operation Kid Comfort (OKC) is STILL active with a chapter in Colorado Springs, CO. In order to process a request, the following needs to be done:
Please visit http://www.ppymca.org/programs/military/operation-kid-comfort and put in a SEPARATE online request (with photos of family / deployed parent, including one in uniform) for EACH kiddo. NOTE: Photos of kiddos by themselves are not permitted.
Please scan / email a copy of the deployment orders showing a deployment of 120 days or longer (black out SSN’s for security purposes) to email@example.com, so we can validate program eligibility. NOTE: Only one (1) set of orders is needed to verify the entire family’s eligibility.