I will never forget the joint mission I did with a German Army captain during my deployment to Afghanistan. Particularly, the moment she held up a Military Spouse magazine she found in the tent we were staying in and stated with wonderment that “they don’t have anything like this in Germany.” My puzzled look prompted her to explain that many families feel shame that their loved ones are in the armed forces.
That moment I was filled with renewed gratitude and appreciation that my nation is currently one that supports those serving despite what they might feel about the campaigns in which they serve.
Still, veterans are particularly vulnerable to unemployment, poverty and homelessness due to common, and often invisible, service-related wounds.
Here are a few stats from americanprogress.org that demonstrate the challenges so many face.
1. Nearly one in seven homeless adults are veterans, as of December 2011.
2. Almost half of homeless veterans were African American in 2008 despite the fact that only 11% of veterans overall are African American.
3. 1.5 million veterans are at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.
4. 30.2% of veterans ages 18 to 24 were unemployed according to unpublished 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
1.5 Million The number of veterans at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.
On this day of thanks and reflection, let us remember that the struggle to access opportunity and to create an economically stable and fruitful life isn’t exclusive to those that served in combat and often isn’t over for those that did and have since returned home. We need renewed focus, conversation and action to address the underlying systemic causes of poverty, whether they are difficulties faced by veterans in terms of reintegrating into civilian life or the legacy of racially discriminatory policies. In this way, the thanks we offer those who have served on a day like today can translate more extensively to concrete support for them and their families when they become veterans, and for all our citizens as well.
Image Source: Brittany Ramos.