Today, our nation has 19 million veterans, representing about 10% of the total U.S. adult population. Behind these brave men and women of the military stand their family members and caregivers who may not have worn the uniform but have served our country alongside their loved ones.
The imprints of service are felt long after a military career officially ends and, for many recent service members and veterans, the adjustment back to civilian life can be challenging. Our nation’s military service members can face physical injuries and invisible wounds that can be just as debilitating, as well as financial and professional challenges. Among recent post-9/11 veterans, 47% felt it was very or somewhat difficult to readjust to civilian life after their military service.
Despite the large number of fellow Americans dealing with this challenge, it remains that most Americans have no concept of these burdens our veterans – and their loved ones – bear. In fact, a majority of recent veterans feel that the public has little awareness of the issues facing them and their families.
Last month, we worked to start bridging this gap. We came together along with Medal of Honor recipient, Leroy Petry and Jennifer Griffin, Chief National Security Correspondent at Fox News, to host a candid discussion about ways civilians and veterans can come together to support our military community and each other, to ensure that veteran support remains a priority in our nation.
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Veteran issues aren’t talked about enough, but it doesn’t take much to get the conversation started. Let’s not forget that it can take great emotional courage to ask for help. The sacrifices endured on our behalf by service members and their families are something we can never repay, but we can ensure that they are never taken for granted or forgotten.
For those who don’t know how to help, take just a few minutes to research the issues facing our military. Figure out how to get involved locally with organizations in your community, support a veteran-owned business, or learn how your local leaders support veteran-focused legislation. By using what you can, you can make a difference.
More than 30 years ago, Fisher House Foundation was founded by a civilian who leveraged his expertise to create a refuge where military families can stay at no cost while their wounded, injured or ill service member or veteran receives treatment far from home. Tapping into his career in construction, Zachary Fisher created a home away from home for many, allowing families to focus on being there for their loved one.
That’s just one example of how people can use their own unique strengths for good, but there’s a role for everyone to play. The issues impacting our service members, veterans and their families won’t change until the divide between the military and civilian communities is bridged.