As we remember the tenth anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq, we need to consider the toll a decade of war has taken on those who serve. We live in a nation where less than one percent of the population serve in our nation’s armed forces. Those who have worn our nation’s uniform are an illustrious group of men and women whose service and sacrifices have enabled us to live the lives we do, in freedom and prosperity. Our military makes enormous sacrifices, as do military spouses and military families. Service members have written a blank check up to and including their lives. We must be cognizant of the debt we owe those who have served. As many of them return and transition back to civilian life, it is not only our honor to help them, but our moral responsibility.
The best way for us to honor our Veterans and their families is to provide them their American Dream. We need to provide our Veterans excellent health care, including mental health services without prejudice or stigma. Our military Veterans deserve the ability to own their own homes. Homelessness is unacceptable. Our Veterans deserve the excellent education benefits they have earned, provided by the Post 9/11 GI Bill. They should have the opportunity to use their Veteran education benefits to attend Veteran friendly colleges, universities and vocational schools, giving them the opportunity to better their lives and increase their earning power. We need to provide Veterans jobs and outstanding employment opportunities. Military Veterans bring skills, a superior work ethic, dedication, discipline and honor to the workplace. Each of us can do something to make a positive difference while helping our transitioning Veterans. We will also benefit from stepping up for the men and women who have stepped up for us. We live in the greatest nation in the world. We need to make sure that those who have sacrificed to make it great are priority one, front and center.
Here are a few statistics to keep in mind:
- More than 6,000 US Troops have been killed since 2001
- More than 4,400 US Troops died in Iraq
- More than 1,600 US Troops died in Afghanistan
- More than 45,000 US Troops have been wounded since 2001
- More of our Service Members are committing suicide than dying in combat
- Over 4,000 young veterans have died from suicides, drug overdoses and vehicle crashes
- Over 2 Million US Troops have been deployed to Iraq & Afghanistan
- Over 600,000 Veterans have been treated at Veteran Medical facilities
- About half of our returning Veterans are eligible for some type of disability
- More than one-third of those who have served will develop PTSD
- The Rand Corporation estimates that approximately 320,000 Service Members have experienced Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) during their deployment.
As a nation, we need to recognize that each Veterans is a link in the unbroken chain of sacrifice.
Debbie Gregory, CEO