Sixteen years ago today, a U.S. led coalition launched attacks in Afghanistan in retaliation for the September 11th attacks, to destroy Al Qaeda and remove the Taliban government from power. This would mark the beginning of the “War on terror” which would later include Iraq and other deadly conflict zones. Officially, the U.S. Government has declared the Afghanistan portion of the war over. That is a tough sell considering we still have nearly 12,000 troops stationed there. Earlier this week, three U.S. Green Berets were killed fighting terrorists in Niger. The war on terror is very much alive, and people are going to get there drivers license this week who have never experienced life without it.
The human cost of the war on terror has been high. The United States has lost nearly 10,000 service men and women, while bringing home another 50,000 wounded. Over a million soldiers have been deployed overseas during this time, giving up their youth and innocence while protecting people who are too often apathetic to their plight. Estimates are that one in seven return home suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other emotional and mental health problems. Estimates vary on the number of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere who have died in the war on terror, but it is likely over 150,000. The financial cost has also been enormous, approximately between five and seven trillion dollars.
It is not going to end anytime soon.
During this sixteen year conflict, there is one expression said and written more than any other: “Support Our Troops.” I 100 percent agree. They are three easy words to write or say, but much more difficult to live up to. The word “support” is a verb, meaning it requires action.
What do these three words mean?
Support them by being aware of them:
The United States currently has over 1.2 million men and women serving actively in the military, with another 800,000 serving as reserves. Over a half million of them are currently deployed overseas. For many who don’t have a family member or close friend serving, we often forget about them. The least we can do is think of them.
Support them by sending messages, gifts, and supplies:
Soldiers love to receive any of these. It makes them feel appreciated, and connects them to the homes they miss. Even a simple text message from a friend or loved one makes a difference. Not sure how you can help? Operation Gratitude has sent nearly two million care packages to soldiers in the last fourteen years. Access their website to learn how you can give:
Or, you can also adopt a soldier here:
Support them by caring for them when they come home:
The transition back into civilian life can be extremely difficult, especially when a soldier is physically or emotionally damaged. 22 soldiers each month commit suicide, while countless others suffer through their anguish without nearly the help they deserve. One in four homeless people across the United States is a veteran of the U.S. Military. There are plenty of good organizations who are trying their hardest to support our returning soldiers. Here are a few that could use your help:
Support them by hiring them:
Progress has been made in this endeavor. The unemployment rate amongst veterans is now at 4.3 percent, falling from 5.1 percent in 2011. If you are in a position to hire, here is a link to the Bradley Morris Veteran staffing agency:
Support them by supporting politicians that support them:
Every man and woman in who serves in the military is precious. Their individual existence is unique and valuable to themselves and many around them. We need to make sure that our leaders support them in the best way possible, bringing them home safely at the end of their duty. We must all work for soldiers to fly their flags proudly in their front yard, not rest in a casket draped by one. We must hold our leadership accountable and demand that it views war as a last, not first resort. We must also insist that our leaders create budgets that ensure adequate pay, benefits, insurance, and care for those who serve. That includes financially supporting the success of the Veterans Administration and other entities which care for our troops. Part of how we support our troops is making it a priority that the people with power do too.
Support them by fighting for the American values they defend overseas here at home :
Terrorists like those of September 11 did not just want to attack America the place, but America the idea. We were founded upon the principles of freedom, fairness, justice, and equality. When we allow those values to be compromised, we insult and demean those that protect them. America is supposed to be the land of the free, where people of all genders, races, lifestyles, religions, and beliefs have the ability to achieve to the fullest of their abilities. We must defend our foundational concepts like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and equal protection under the law. When we lose sight of these we are not holding up our end of the bargain to the soldier under fire thousands of miles from the ones they love, the 19 year old starting over with two prosthetic devices for legs, the veteran trying to overcome P.T.S.D., the grieving family members, and so many others. Supporting the troops means being the America that we set out to be.
Photo Credit: Dailymail.com
Bumper stickers, tweets, facebook posts, blogs, and spoken words are all easy ways to pronounce that we support our troops. To actually do it is much harder, but never more necessary.
Support our troops, and remember “support” is a verb.
Follow the Unfinished Pyramid on twitter at: