BAMBERG, Germany -- They have been there, they understand and they are here to help.

As Veterans of Foreign Wars, they understand that deployments can weigh heavily, emotionally and financially, on Soldiers and family members left behind.

Through National Military Services, VFW Posts can offer support and assistance to Soldiers and family members.

"We have a saying 'We honor the dead by helping the living,'" said Mike Sowinski, VFW Post 10592 Community Service chairman.

"Our main goal is to not only support units but also support the veterans who have served," he said.

The NMS is able to support Soldiers and their Families by providing funds for welcome home ceremonies, financial assistance and free phone calls home.

These programs are the Military Assistance Program, Unmet Needs and Operation Uplink, Sowinski said. These three separate programs, funded by donations, were created by the VFW National Military Services department.

The following is an overview of the three VFW programs:

Military Assistance Program

"MAP allows funds for the units, for example if they were deployed to Afghanistan, MAP authorizes funds for a welcome home, ceremony," Sowinski said. "Whether it be a barbecue or Christmas dinner."

In the last five years, MAP has sponsored welcome home, farewell and Family Readiness Group events supporting over one million service members and their Families, according to the VFW website.

"MAP is a national program that we are authorized to participate in, but it has to be under the authorization of a unit commander," Sowinski said.

The MAP Grant Application can only be completed and submitted by a VFW member.

Sowinski suggests unit commanders and Family Readiness Groups to contact him if they are interested in receiving event funds.

One major aspect of MAP includes the Adopt-a-Unit program.

Through Adopt-a-Unit, VFW Posts can adopt units to provide support before, during and after a unit deployment, Sowinski said.

For more information on the Military Assistance Program, contact your garrison's VFW Post or contact the Military Assistance Program at or call 816-756-3390 and ask for the Military Assistance Program office.

Unmet Needs

Unmet Needs was created in 2004 through a partnership to assist military service members and their Families who have unforeseen financial difficulties.

"Unmet Needs mostly has to do with Families of a deployed service member, who are unable to pay emergency bills," Sowinski said.

Unmet Needs can assist military Families with basic life needs such as mortgage and rent, home and auto repairs, insurance, utilities, food and clothing.

"An example would be an emergency auto bill or a plumbing bill," Sowinski said. "Credit card debt is not one of them."

Financial assistance can be granted up to $2,500 and does not need to be repaid.

"The money will not be authorized to the person, but will be paid to the creditor," Sowinski said.

The service member does not have to be a member of the VFW to apply for financial assistance.

Operation Uplink

Operation Uplink is a calling program for deployed service members that provides free phone time to call family members in the United States, Germany and Italy.

"Soldiers who are down range can go online apply with or without membership," Sowinski said. "They will have to fill out a couple questionnaires; about where they are, where they are staying and if they are a member or not."

"They will get a pin number and a free phone call," Sowinski said. "Most of the time it's twice a month and holidays."

According to VFW website, since its start in 2006, Operation Uplink has provided more than 5.5 million free connections for service members and their Families.

For more information on Military Assistance Program, Unmet Needs and Operation Uplink, visit the Veterans of Foreign Wars homepage.