The American flag. That red, white and blue that remains a symbol of freedom, liberty and human rights. It is a symbol that we as Americans rally behind whether on home or foreign shores. It is a symbol for which our men and women fight to maintain those liberties and freedoms when they are threatened. The United States Armed Forces is an all volunteer force, one of few in the world. These men and women volunteer for their country in order to protect, serve and defend our freedoms. They write a blank check made payable to “The United States of America,” for an amount up to and including their life.
I have some very personnel and close ties with the veteran community. My husband, Jeff Kyle, is the brother of Chris Kyle, the American Sniper. His family, in the wake of Chris’ death, created the American Valor Foundation which provides financial, emotional and mental support to veterans, first responders or active duty military members as well as other foundations who support a similar cause.
My husband Jeff served in the United States Marine Corp for 8 years from 2000-2008. He served with the 3rd and 4th Marine Divisions and deployed multiple times to Iraq and other areas during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. My bias towards the military is strong and proud. I have first hand experience of my loved one deployed to a dangerous war zone. I waited on those SAT phone calls that were too few and far between. I sent care packages filled with pictures, momentos and memories in an attempt to keep him connected and ignore the distance between us. I breathed a sigh of relief when he returned home for the final time, safe and seemingly unharmed. I saw first hand the stress, pain and anguish he went through when returning from war. I survived the struggle of conserving our marriage as he attempted to reacclimate to civilian life.
As of October 29, 2018 the Department of Defense reported 6,972 military casualties since September 11, 2001 (www.dod.defense.gov). According to the VA , there have been 99,280 veteran suicides from 2001-2014 alone (www.mentalhealth.va.gov). You heard me right. There are more then 14x the amount of veterans committing suicide in the United States than we actually lost in war. These are staggering statistics that to this day fuel my drive to give back. There is a need not being met. There are people suffering and they are the same ones that volunteered to fight for your freedoms.
People all around the country sit back and assume that these veterans are getting the support and care they need. They assume the transition back into civilian life, “Isn’t as bad as they make it out to be.” They assume there is enough being done and that they do not need to step in to help. Making assumptions is a lethal decision. The statistics prove that to be true.
I’ve watched my husband’s friends lose their battle here at home. I’ve cried and mourned over men who were so strong, survived and sacrificed so much for something bigger than themselves, but could not overcome their demons here at home. It’s a personnel battle for sure. One that I will never know the depths of. What I do know is that I can serve my country in a different way. I can serve by supporting, honoring and fighting for those men and women who fought for me and my freedoms. It is not enough to sit back and believe there are enough people working towards this mission. There aren’t.
This veterans day, step out of your comfort zone. Step up and act, don’t sit back and wait for someone else to take care of our veterans. These men and women deserve more. They don’t deserve to feel alone, unwanted, inept in their ability to communicate and contribute to society here at home. They have been out there fighting FOR you and it’s time for us to return the favor.
There are so many ways to support our veterans here at home. It’s as simple as a gesture of kindness to an individual for their sacrifice. This could include a thank you, a hand shake, a meal bought, a flag flown, a hat off and hand over your heart for the National Anthem. You can also provide aid through financial support or volunteering for one of the many veteran foundations that assist these men and women. Our family spends quite a bit of time communicating and working with foundations throughout Texas and across the nation. We have a couple right here at home. Both American Valor Foundation and Veteran One Stop serve our local Waco community members. Get involved. It’s a life changing opportunity providing a perspective like no other.
There are also many other foundations that provide different venues of support. Do your research and help support a specific mission that fuels your fire to give back. I listed a few below that we have specific connections to.
- American Valor Foundation http://www.americanvalorfoundation.org
- Veteran One Stop http://www.veteransonestop.org
- Save a Warrior http://www.saveawarrior.org
- Mission 22 http://www.mission22.com
- Spirit of a Hero http://www.spiritofahero.org
- Guardian for Heroes http://www.guardianforheroes.org
- Smokey Mountain Service Dogs http://www.smokymountainservicedogs.org
- 22 Kill http://www.22kill.com
- America’s Mighty Warriors http://www.americasmightywarriors.org
- Vacations for Warriors http://www.vacationsforwarriors.org
- Hunting for Healing http://www.huntingforhealing.org
To all the men and women who served or continue to serve our great country in the United States Armed Forces, I thank you. I thank you for your service to our country but more importantly I thank you for sacrificing for something bigger then yourself. It’s a rare thing these days to sacrifice for someone else, but you chose that life and I am forever grateful. Happy Veteran’s Day!