Veteran’s Day was made official at the end of World War I when hostilities ceased on the eleventh day, of the eleventh hour, of the eleventh month in 1918. The following year President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11th as the first Armistice Day and made this statement:
"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"
Since then, Americans like you and me have stopped on this day to recognize the military service of those who have gone before us and for those who continue to serve, in order to honor their sacrifice. I am grateful for Veteran’s Day in that it tends to bring pause to those who don’t often consider our brothers and sisters in uniform and hope that occasions such as this will continue to raise our awareness. As I write this, there are approximately 22 million American veterans living in communities across this great nation. For me, I have a legacy of military service in my family, and it is likely that you have a family member or friend who has served in our nation’s military. This country has a proud history of military service and I hope you agree with me that we cannot ever do enough to thank them for the sacrifices they have made in the name of freedom and democracy.
Sadly, our veterans often face a difficult road when returning home from combat. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that one-third (107,000 est.) of the entire adult homeless population are veterans, having served as far back as WWII and as recently as Iraq and Afghanistan. Often homelessness is due to lack of affordable housing and health care or as a result of psychological issues that have gone untreated. Although health care benefits are offered to veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), over 40% of veterans say they don’t receive the benefits they need because they aren’t aware of the benefits offered and 60% because they don’t have a service-related disability. It is estimated that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in returning veterans may be as high as 50% and that those with PTSD are six times more likely to commit suicide. I was startled to discover that it is estimated that a veteran attempts suicide every 80 minutes, and that approximately 18 veterans commit suicide everyday.
I am sure you agree our veterans need our help. Below I have listed three non-government related charitable organizations that support our military servicemen and their families. If you are interested in a comprehensive list, please click HERE.
Fisher House Foundation was established in 1990 and is an organization that supports military members across all branches and their families. Specifically, the Fisher House Program donates “comfort homes” that allow family members to remain close by loved ones (such as in the case of major injury or unexpected illness). There are 54 Fisher Houses in the US and Germany. This organization has served more than 142,000 families since its inception with no cost to the family members. In addition to this cause, the Fisher House Foundation sponsors causes such as scholarships for military children.
The Wounded Warrior Project was established in 2003 and supports injured servicemen to help themselves and each other through services designed to meet their immediate needs. This includes outdoor rehabilitation; professional services such as counseling; recreational activities that foster independence; higher education programs; occupational training; and peer mentoring, just to name a few.
The USO was established in 1941 with a core mission to “lift the spirits of America’s troops and their families”. The organization supports over ten major projects including supporting families of fallen soldiers, language courses for those stationed overseas, meal delivery to remote bases, care package delivery, workshops for children with deployed family members, free phone cards for servicemen overseas to call home, and many more. The USO is located in 160 locations in 27 states and 14 countries. In addition, hundreds of entertainers travel each year to entertain the troops via the USO.
*I do not wish to endorse these organizations specifically; I am just more familiar with these through personal volunteering experiences.
Thank you for taking time today to stop and remember those who have served on the front lines for our freedom. I challenge you to take action in reaching out to this community in whatever way you see fit. Whether it is through a donation, volunteering, or continuing to raise awareness, I hope that you will feel compelled to help.
For those who have served, I cannot thank you enough for what you have done for this country. May you know an outpouring of support and gratitude from every American. Thank you.
Join the club,