Defense Secretary Robert Gates said earlier this week that most Americans have grown too detached from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and see military service as "something for other people to do."
In the article featured on the Military Times website, it goes on to share these staggering statistics:
Because fewer Americans see military service as their duty, troops today face repeated combat tours and long separations from family. The 2.4 million people serving in the armed forces today represent less than 1 percent of the country's total population.
But after almost a decade of warfare since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, troops who have escaped combat unscathed still faced repeated deployments with long separations from their families. In Iraq at one point, some combat tours stretched to 18 months. More than 1 million soldiers and Marines have been deployed there during the course of the conflict.
With statistics like this, does anyone really believe there is such thing as an "unscathed" combat soldier?
"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." ~José Narosky
It's those repeated deployments and long separations from family that contribute to wounds that you cannot see.
Military couples face great challenges to their marriage due to long separations, infrequent communication and numerous relocations. Divorce rates in the military are soaring every year and the suicide rate has reached an all-time high. Add to those statistics the hidden wounds such as undiagnosed PTSD and undetected Traumatic Brain Injuries, and we have one very big mess that will be dealt with for more decades to come.
I know very well the effects of military sacrifices. After more than 23 years of serving in the Army, my husband was critically wounded in a gunfight in Iraq in 2004. He survived a gunshot wound to the head, spending three years recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Even as debilitating as this injury sounds, it's the 100% PTSD rating that affects him the most; it's a wound that has no visible scars.
I am the Executive Director of Cleaning for Heroes, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides free housecleaning, maintenance, and repair services to elderly and disabled veterans in need. Cleaning for Heroes was founded by Anne Aldridge, owner of Ocean State House Cleaning in Warwick, Rhode Island. As a former maid service owner and caretaker of a severely-injured combat veteran, I can see the benefits of this program on a variety of levels.
We believe that everyone has the ability and power to create positive changes in our country and relieve the burdens that come as a result of military sacrifice. It's called "giving back and giving appreciation" in some of the most basic and practical ways.
Our program accepts applications from veterans of all eras and we make no distinction over the type or level of disability needed to qualify for our program.
Thousands of soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are returning to civilian life with moderate to severe physical injuries. Disabling and traumatic events such as loss of limbs, head trauma and debilitating illnesses make it difficult for these men and women to meet the demands of everyday life such as cleaning and maintaining their homes. There are hundreds of thousands of other veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War who also have disabling injuries.
The residual effect of providing free household services can improve the health and overall well-being of the recipients and their families, allowing the veterans more time to focus on their healing, family bonding, community involvement and productivity. In many cases, the assistance given by Cleaning for Heroes to promote a healthy healing environment can prevent recurring hospitalizations or placement into a nursing home. By keeping the veterans in their own homes, this helps maintain the dignity of the veteran and saves taxpayers the cost of absorbing any additional medical care given by military treatment facilities.
Based on the same concept that our nation's heroes volunteered to serve their country and communities, Cleaning for Heroes is an all-volunteer effort that brings donors, providers and recipients together. Even in this "down" economy, cleaning businesses are thriving because their communities recognize their goodwill and reward them for operating with a moral compass. Customers looking to hire a cleaning service will typically choose one of our providers over a competitor who doesn't participate in our program.
So, the burden of our volunteer military force may be increasing, but the volunteer force standing behind these brave heroes is increasing as well. It's the volunteer military forces in our great country that inspire others to join the ranks as everyday heroes in communities everywhere.
Scott Davis, owner of Confident Roof and Exterior Cleaning in Houston, Texas expressed his feelings about donating his professional services to a Korean-era veteran by saying, "In the scope of our business this is a small amount to donate. In the scope of a disabled veterans day-to-day life, it could be huge."
Well said, Scott. Well said. Thank you for being our hero too.