As Americans, we can’t help but feel mixed emotions as the anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 approaches once again. 13 years have passed, and yet we still feel the pain over the senseless loss of life that occurred that day, the fear of a world that can and does change in the blink of an eye. Yet, at that same time, we remember the unity, the courage and heroism exhibited, and the voice of a people who would not be bowed by the actions of those who exist to break the spirit of a nation.
For some, the pain is still fresh even these many years later. And for some, it is just another day. For others, the events of Sept. 11, 2001 was the catalyst for change, a call to action. For millions, it was a call to serve and protect as a member of the United States military.
At Operation Homefront, we have had the privilege and honor to support these men and women for more than 12 years. Each one is an example of what makes this country deserving of the gifts of liberty and freedom and why it continues to be a beacon of hope for so many around the world. The cost to our military and their families has been high:
- More than 5,000 have given their lives to the cause of freedom.
- More than 50,000 have been wounded or injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- More than 1,700 required amputations.
- Among service members deployed in these conflicts, 103,792 have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) over the period 2002 to December 2012. Over that same period, 253,330 service members have been diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) of some kind.
(From the February 2013 Congressional Research Service report)
I remember meeting Jane Horton, widow of Army Specialist Chris Horton, who was killed in action. She wore a black bracelet with Chris’ name as a visible reminder to others that Chris’ sacrifice will not be forgotten. I was moved when she took it from her own wrist and gave it to me, and I’m wearing that bracelet as I write this. I will help to insure Chris will be remembered and the freedom secured by his sacrifice will go on.
As we reflect on the sacrifices made and endured on this anniversary, we must never forget that freedom really isn’t free, but requires constant vigilance. On a daily basis, we are bombarded with vivid images of regional conflicts threatening national boundaries; demands from radical extremists who resort to horrific acts of barbarism to intimidate and inspire fear; and international figures who seek to destabilize their neighbors in hopes of advancing their own self interests.
Yet on this anniversary, we should reflect as well on the spirit of a united country that still holds fast. Of neighbors helping neighbors, every day. Those that spread the light to banish the darkness. And that young men and women still answer the call to protect and defend in the face of the unknown and unseen, no matter how far from home it may take them.
Please join me today in honoring the service, sacrifice, courage and commitment of an entire nation, with a special thanks to our active duty military, our veterans, our wounded warriors and their families.
Jim Knotts, President and CEO
If you would like to know more about our mission, please visit us at www.operationhomefront.net . At Operation Homefront, we support both active duty families as well as those wounded warriors who are in varying stages of their transition and recovery. Programs like our transitional housing, and permanent mortgage-free housing, serve critical needs for this community. Our emergency financial assistance program remains a lifeline for these families in their times of need. And you can help. We maintain a list of these current needs on our website where, thanks to your support, we are able to make a difference for these families every day. Or you could give a general donation to be used for any one of our programs.