In reflecting on the last few months of 2023, it is heartening to see such strong support for our nation’s military community around holidays like Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday. Though, while these acknowledgements and ‘thank yous’ are welcome during the holidays, they are simply not enough.
A parade on Veterans Day and social media posts from political figures and organizations on Thanksgiving and over the holidays do not come close to repaying the debt we owe to all members our military community – not just from recent conflicts, but from all wars, including WWII, Korea, Vietnam, both Gulf Wars, and all who served during the Global War on Terror. Even in the last few weeks, we have seen that our service members are not out of harm’s way.
As another year comes and goes, the conversation around military families has quieted down, and service members, veterans, and their loved ones are no longer at the forefront of the conversation. These men and women have sacrificed so much, yet our nation struggles to reciprocate year-round.
Today in the United States, there are more than 30,000 homeless veterans. In fact, veterans make up more than 10% of our nation’s homeless population and are twice as likely to become homeless than those who did not serve in the military. What’s more startling is that, today, the veteran suicide rate is over 1.5 times higher than those of civilians and nearly 17 U.S. veterans take their lives every day.
While our nation’s veterans deal with hardships day to day, the families and spouses of veterans also must deal with challenges that civilian families do not understand. Being forced to constantly move across the country or globe and be there every step of the way for the rehabilitation of a loved one’s wounds, both visible and invisible, puts a strain on these families that most American families do not have to endure. These families stand with our nation’s heroes and serve as their backbone and main outlet of support. It is just as vital that we take care of them, as well as our veterans.
To put it simply, our military families face challenges the average American has no concept of. While neither my great-uncle Zachary Fisher nor I wore the uniform, starting and leading Fisher House Foundation has been one small way we try to repay a debt that cannot be repaid.
At Fisher House, we believe that a family’s love is good medicine. Through our network of nearly 100 comfort homes, family members of wounded, injured, or ill service members and veterans can stay at no cost while their loved ones receive treatment far from home. By allowing families to be at the bedside, we help them focus on what is most important – the recovery process.
As you set your 2024 New Year’s resolution, I urge you to capture and remember the spirit of the giving season and carry it with you. While there isn’t one solution to the issues impacting our military community or one way to give back to our military heroes, there are many ways to get involved beyond saying thank you.
Get educated on the policies that impact our military. Hold local elected officials accountable to the promises they make leading up to elections. Support a veteran-owned small business or volunteer with a local nonprofit serving military communities.
This year, it is my hope that this critical conversation continues. While we have come a long way in acknowledging our veteran community, so much more needs to be done, and we can’t afford to wait until the next holiday.Read comments