Veterans

  • "It is fundamentally unfair to expect a small percentage of our population, drawn largely from the middle and working class or poor, to carry the burden and pay the price of fighting wars that are always initiated in "the national interest," however credible or contrived the threat.

    "The least the rest of us can do
    as fellow citizens and the beneficiaries of their sacrifices is to find a way to connect to those families and ask, 'How can I help?'"  (Source: Tom Brokaw, The Time of Our Lives, p130)
  • "We're called the greatest generation, but I think that's not (giving) fairness to the present generation, people who are abroad, an all-volunteer army, all there because they wanted to serve their country."  - George H. W. Bush
  • Returning from lengthy overseas deployment takes its toll.  The soldier takes longer to mentally adjust to civilian life, which is also hard on families.  Deployment increases the stress of the parent left at home, who often feels isolated, anxious, and depressed.  These factors contribute to the high divorce rate among military couples.  Children of soldiers also suffer a level of fear and sadness similar to those who have lost a parent to death or divorce.  These children are not only missing a parent, but they are also afraid for their safety.  Children need help to understand and cope, and adults need to be mindful of their needs. 

  • The Washington State Veterans Cemetery at Medical Lake was dedicated on Memorial Day, 2010.
  • Returning Home - to What?  The Dept. of Defense reported that divorce ended around 30,000 military marriages in 2011.  Wounded couples know that not only is the spouse who served wounded, but also the other spouse is wounded in so many ways.  Some of the warriors have war injuries that are visible, while others have wounds that are invisible, such as brain injuries and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).  Many of the homeless are veterans.  American troops have been fighting almost non-stop in the Middle East for more than a decade, and casualties from these wars include both our service members and their families.  Many are seeking healing of their bodies, minds and marriages.  Injuries and their challenges can take a toll on marriage.  Many of the wounded did not receive a hero’s welcome, but returned home by themselves, in need of healing, spiritual, emotional and healing of their marriages.  ("Wounded Warriors Find Path to Healing in Alaska," by Mark Martin, CBN News Reporter, November 28, 2014)
   
Statistics
  • Those who have served have taken many personal risks for their country. 

    U.S. Service Member Statistics

    • 2.8+ million deployed to Afghanistan/Iraq since 9/11
    • 90% survive their injuries
    • 1 in 50 sustained physical combat injury
    • 1 in 5 suffers from PTSD, TBI, or depression
Veteran Caregivers
    • 88% report increased stress/anxiety
    • 77% suffer sleep deprivation
    • 30% care for 10 years or more  (Family Caregiver Alliance 2016; Bob Woodruff Foundation, CBS This Morning, October 31, 2016) 
  • Between 50,000 to 60,000 veterans live in Spokane County, which equates to between 10-12% of the estimated 2012 population.  (Spokane County Veteran Services) 

  • Over 25% of homeless men are war veterans.  Among those are young men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who have debilitating injuries and have no place to go. 

  • The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan led to physical injuries for more than 50,000 service members.  In addition, an estimated 400,000 battle combat-related stress, major depression, and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).  The greatest casualty is being forgotten.  There is a heavy cost for freedom - and the service men and women are freedom providers.  (Wounded Warrior Project, 2013, http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/)
What You Can Do

  • Suicide Prevention.  Veterans in crisis, or those concerned about them, can call the 24-hour suicide prevention hot line through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration at (800) 273-8255.

  • Ask the organizations serving veterans, what you can do to serve the veterans who have given so much in the service of our country.  Many who return fall on hard times and do not have needed resources.  One possible idea may be to organize an Adopt-a-Vet program to provide welcome-home baskets containing basic household supplies to help returning vets settle into a home.  The baskets could include hygiene, kitchen, cleaning, bathroom and bedroom items. 

  • Organize recreational opportunities for wounded vets. 
  • Offer to help renovate homes for severely wounded veterans. 

  • Employers can search for veterans to employ at
    http://www.go2worksource.biz

    A 2011 veteran preference law provides tax credits to companies that hire unemployed veterans, and repeals a requirement that federal, state and local governments begin withholding 3 percent of payments to contractors in 2013.  One million veterans will be entering the civilian workforce over the next five years, due to the war in Iraq winding down.  Businesses recognize that the work experience veterans gained while in the service is valuable to private enterprise.  

    Veterans can post their resume and veteran status on the Washington Department of Employment Security’s online resume service at http://www.go2worksource.com

  • Help new veterans find volunteer opportunities.  Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, used his savings from combat pay to start a program called The Mission Continues, which helps veterans transition back to civilian life by helping others.  The transition back home for veterans who serve overseas is rarely easy.  It helps when they still have a purpose.  Many of Eric’s teammates were severely injured, ending their military careers; however, Eric said he “knew from working with these men and women that they wanted to find a way to continue to serve.”  So, he took on a new mission helping veterans transition to civilian life through community service, like renovating a Los Angeles community center.

    "When people come home, we're saying to them thank you," he said.  "What they also have to hear is, 'We still need you.'"  "There are thousands of veterans who woke up this morning, and they are going to spend all day today watching TV, self-medicating, or drinking alcohol.  We talked with a lot of veterans who told us that prior to The Mission Continues fellowship, they were thinking about taking their own lives.  That first conversation we have, we say to them, "Look.  We need you.  How are you going to continue to serve?" 

    "By creating service fellowships in communities, our veterans figure out how to live productive lives," according to Eric.  New veterans commit to serve six months at non-profits in their local communities.  They get a modest stipend of about $300 a week, some job skills and a healthy dose of tough love.  Veterans want to honor their fallen brothers by giving back to what our troops have been protecting so long.  They want to continue to serve their country. 

    "Yes, people have come back with post traumatic stress, yes people have been disabled," Greitens told a group of vets.  "We have to decide whether or not we're going to be looking for an excuse, or we're going to be willing to accept a challenge."

    "When these men and women leave their Mission Continues fellowships, they go on to full employment, they go on to full time education and, for those of them who've had post traumatic stress disorder, their symptoms go down," Greitens said.   (reported by Bill Whitaker, CBS Evening News, reporting from Los Angeles, July 3, 2013 http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57592275/volunteer-service-gives-vets-a-second-purpose/

  • Catch a Lift - Fitness for Americas Wounded Veterans.  Exercise is helping veterans lose weight, and others have drastically reduced their medications.  Exercise also helps them reconnect and rebuild the camaraderie that they once had in the military.  Learn from this charity which provides free access to gyms anywhere in the country.  It even provides equipment for those who want to work out at home.  
    (CBS Evening News, November 11, 2015)
    http://www.catchaliftfund.com/gyms-across-america/

  • Wounded Warrior Project:  A CBS News investigation has issued a caution to donors that Wounded Warrior Project board members are lavishly spending money on themselves.  Only a little over half of donor dollars have been spent on services to Veterans.  A public audit was initiated, and two top executives were fired.  ("Wounded Warrior Woes, Some Major Donors Cut Funds Amid Spending Scandal," CBS News Investigation, March 4, 2016)   NOTE:  After this problem was aired, new administrators took over this organization. 
Local Organizations
Additional Resources

"Gardening projects change lives of troubled veterans,"
by Molly Redfield, Nourishing the Planet, October 11, 2012.
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Making-a-difference/Change-Agent/2012/1011/Gardening-projects-change-lives-of-troubled-veterans