coffee mugs

photo provided by Christopher Cornelius

In this economy, we’re all making smarter economic choices. We’re eating out less and skipping that big vacation. We’re cutting back on our “wants” to save for our “needs.” Our friends in the armed forces are making similar choices. However – like many of us – sometimes they still need to take out military loans to cover deployment expenses or childcare.

So when a stranger offers to pick up a soldier’s check at a restaurant or buy their gas at the station, that small gesture makes a huge impact.

That’s just what happened to Josh Splinter, Staff Sargent in the US Air Force, and a group of his co-workers.

The crew was finishing up lunch at Mel’s Burger Joint in Coopers Cove, Texas, when they asked for the check. The waitress told them that someone already covered the tab for the entire table. They never met their Good Samaritan.

“We were not expecting that at all,” Josh said. “Everyone was really surprised and thankful. We had a lot of appreciation for the gesture and respect for the person who bought our meals.”

The Movement

Little acts like this make a big difference. Last fall, this idea spawned a short film and campaign to honor soldiers. “The Unknown Citizen” touchingly reflects on how small gestures can affect a soldier. The 4-minute film supports a campaign designed to encourage similar acts of kindness.

Maybe you could be the next to honor a member of the military in this way. Here are 7 random acts of kindness you can perform for a solider.

1.  $5 ideas: Pick up a coffee tab. Get their magazine and snacks at the airport. Feed a soldier’s parking meter. Pay their bar tab.

2.  $50+ surprises: Buy their gas. Pick up the movie admission fees for the family. Help pay off an armed forces loan.

3.  Offer to babysit for a soldier or take over a meal. According to Josh, the guys have a lot of appreciation when others look out for their wives and kids while they are deployed. “It’s not my kids’ job to be in the military, but it’s a lifestyle that comes with the territory of having a dad who is. It’s almost like they are deployed or displaced, too, when I am away.”

4.  Run a race in a soldier’s honor. Find a military-sponsored race and show your support. You can run or volunteer.

5.  Mow their lawn. Who doesn’t like to come home after a hard day to no yard work?

6.  Send a card. In these days of texts, tweets, and e-mails, it is nice to still get a card in the mail. Show your appreciation in a letter.

7.  Just say thanks. Josh said what he and his fellow soldiers appreciate most is the verbal thank-you for their service. He added that he doesn’t feel like he’s entitled to special treatment, because this is his job; it’s what he chose to do for a living.


As the saying goes, it’s the little things that matter most. Honoring someone doesn’t have to be complicated. Whether you’re a fellow solider or you love someone who is, everyone can support a member of our armed forces.

If you’re a member of the military, how has someone honored or helped you?