This conflict has exacted a heavy toll on our military families. For a generation of brave Americans who fought valiantly for 13 years, more than 5,000 made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and more than 50,000 have sustained injuries. I think we’re all relieved to put that battle behind us, but the fight is just beginning at home.
As an organization born out of 9/11, there’s a very real symbolism for Operation Homefront in the remarks made by U.S. Army General John Campbell, who presided over the ceremony on Dec. 8 in Kabul. General Campbell stated, “As the Afghan National Security Forces have become increasingly capable, we shift our focus from combat operations to building [Afghan] systems and processes to ensure long-term sustainability.”
Long-term sustainability, or the ability to endure, is something all freedom-loving people around the world can easily understand. While we certainly wish the Afghan people well, here at home our focus is on helping our own military families endure, including those who continue to serve, and the veterans leaving the active duty force as our military downsizes.
We’ve seen the needs of these families evolve over 13 years of war. Along the way, we’ve recognized that it isn’t merely good enough to be available in times of crisis. Rather, we also need to help them avoid another crisis in the future. So how do we do it?
In the past two years, thanks to our generous donors, we’ve provided more than $8 million in the form of emergency assistance grants to families in urgent need of help. Well more than 80% of these families have been post 9/11 veterans. We know that periods of financial crisis are rarely solved through one utility payment, rent payment, or providing a week’s worth of groceries.
Managing a tight budget can be a real challenge for any family, let alone military families. So we now require financial counseling – at no cost to the service member or veteran – when they seek assistance from us more than once. It may seem obvious to some, or perhaps an additional burden to a family in a crisis, but the point is to ensure that we’re doing our part to help families move toward a brighter future. And it’s needed now more than ever. Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s the responsible thing to do.
It’s my hope that while the 13-year war will no longer be something we talk about every day, Americans will never forget the very real physical and emotional scars that these families will battle for decades to come.
At Operation Homefront, we’ll be here, focused on the long-term sustainability of these patriots and their families. I hope you’ll continue to join us as we support them, doing our part to answer the call.
COO, Operation Homefront