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On This Veterans Day…

November 11, 2009

Author: Terri Lee Freeman

As we mark this Veterans Day, we do so with heavy hearts. I’m referring not just to the recent, terrible tragedy at Fort Hood, but also, in the larger scheme of things, the often desperate needs that our soldiers and their families are experiencing, from financial difficulties and medical trauma to domestic strain, deep-seated psychological problems, and more.

In this period of recession, we tend to focus our attention on those most directly affected by poverty — the homeless sleeping on our streets, the hungry lined outside soup kitchens. But we mustn’t forget that many of the men and women in the military and their families are our “neighbors in need,” too. Last year, The Community Foundation, in a project spearheaded by our affiliate, The Montgomery County Community Foundation, examined in a published report the current situation and needs of military personnel and their families in the Washington region. The results are startling. For example:

  • While some 90% of wounded troops survive their injuries, twice as many require amputations than in previous wars.
  • Some 30% of female soldiers have experienced sexual assault; incidence of child abuse has risen 30% since 2001.
  • 1 in 8 soldiers reports experiencing mental health issues.
  • The number of attempted suicides by veterans in 2008 increased 600% over 2006-07.
  • Some 18% of veterans recently returned are unemployed; among the employed, some 25% earn $21,000 or less per year.

And I could go on.  Meanwhile, more and more military families are turning to nonprofit safety-net providers for essential services such as emergency financial assistance, case management, childcare, and workforce training, and there just aren’t enough resources to go around.

So how do we help those who have sacrificed so much? We must find ways to build awareness by continuing to tell the stories of our veterans and their struggles. But, in the shorter term, what can we do as a community of givers? That’s right – give. I encourage you to do some homework and identify area nonprofits that are helping our veterans. Better yet, give to our Neighbors in Need Fund, which is providing financial support to a wide range of safety-net nonprofits, including those serving our veterans.

Veterans Day isn’t just for veterans – it’s a time for all of us to salute these brave men and women and their families who have sacrificed so much. Let’s not forget that their struggles are our struggles, too, and they truly are among our neighbors in need.

P.S.: Join our Facebook “Neighbors in Need” page at http://facebook.com/neighborsinneed.

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