The phone rang at 11PM. My brother, living across the country in NYC, has just returned from a business trip overseas, and was suffering from a serious case of jet lag. It was the wee hours for him, but he knew he could call his Sis on the West Coast for a chin wag. My husband had just left for a deployment days earlier, and I was feeling a little down. I can remember tears streaming down my face and my stomach hurting from laughing so much as he regaled me with stories of his trip. We reminisced about things we did as kids (that our Mom never found out about) and shared those inside jokes that are unique to people who have spent a lifetime growing up together. It was one of those great phone calls that are precious, and seem all too rare, in these days of busy, busy, busy.
That was 12 years ago. The date? 9/10/2001.
At this time of the year, I find my thoughts wandering back to the call with my brother. I can remember the call word for word, where I was sitting, what I was wearing, even the weather. I wonder about the providence of that call, and how the next morning the world descended into chaos. As if the universe just knew that something would be needed to sustain us through the next days and weeks of grief and questions ahead. Some conversations you will never forget.
As I drove my daughter to school this morning, on a beautiful sunny say, I remembered how absolutely and stunningly gorgeous the morning of September 11, 2001 was. And how that beauty was shattered with a tragedy unbearable to witness. Some images you will never forget.
And as I stopped at the local Walgreens on the way home, the clerk asked me at checkout if I wanted to donate a treat for the troops overseas. This is a regular occurrence, and I am disheartened from time to time to see the double take some people will do, confused looks on their faces, as if to say, “Wait… they’re still over there?. Sometimes, I am tempted to ask if they know where “there’ is. Kind of scared of the answer. Seems like it is all too easy to forget.
Our military, veterans and their families… we should never forget. And our battles are not just being fought overseas, they are also being fought here at home.
Veterans and wounded warriors are still waiting far too long for their benefits. The Veterans Administration has made progress in clearing the backlog, but the wait times and number of cases pending is still considerable. As of 6/24/3012, 65% of claims are past the 125 target period for resolution. Over 800,000 claims still pending all together. This delay can place many of our veterans at risk of homelessness, increases their anxiety and stress, and creates hardship and struggle for their families at a time when they need all of their strength and energy for healing and moving forward.
More heartbreaking is the knowledge that combat will never end for some of our veterans. Journalist David Wood’s recent comprehensive piece, Invisible Casualties, for the Huffington Post reveals the new battle front for our military and VA: suicide prevention. It is estimated that 22 veterans a day commit suicide. While not all are considered related to combat duty, and include all veterans who served, the evidence is mounting that more than a decade of combat is taking a toll. Rates for post 9/11 combat veterans have at least doubled since 2001, and there is indication that this rate is increasing. More veterans have died by suicide this year than have in combat in Afghanistan.
Since Operation Homefront was founded shortly after 9/11, we have met over 750,000 needs for military families. With the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Iraq and the ongoing drawdown of troop levels in Afghanistan, some Americans may think that the need for support of these heroes is ending as well. In reality, requests for emergency aid for these heroic families have spiked, and Operation Homefront’s caseworkers are working overtime to keep up with requests for assistance.
How Can I Help?
Connect up with your local Operation Homefront Field Office to see how you can help military families in your area. Operation Homefront also regularly updates our Current Needs page with assistance requests, and you can join us on our fantastic Social Media communities. Our friends at Operation Gratitude and Soldiers Angels make sure no one feel forgotten through care packages and other morale programs. Learn more about the issues facing our military families and veterans by visiting Real Warriors or IAVA. National Military Family Association (NMFA) and Military Officers Association of America (MOAA are addressing legislative issues that have impact on our families, such as sequestration and budget cuts. If you own a company, hire a vet. But the simplest act can be just to saying, “Thank you for your service”.
In the words of then serving President George W. Bush, in the days after 9/11, “Our nation — this generation — will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.”
Help us not fail our military families and veterans by never forgetting the great gift of freedom they have and continue to ensure for us all and for generations to come.