The president's announcement of the start of Afghanistan troop withdrawals marks a new phase in the war on terror. No group of Americans will be happier about the reduction of forces in harm's way than our service members and their families. And whether or not one agrees with the reasons for the withdrawal, all Americans can rejoice in the return of our soldiers and Marines from combat.
To be sure, they are not all coming home at once, and many thousands remain on the front lines. But the president's decision marks an important milestone.
It's been said in recent years that "the military is at war, and Americans are at the mall." That is a rather trite way of stating that far-off wars tend to escape the public's attention, especially when the media only cover the conflict when there are a lot of American deaths.
There have been a lot of casualties, both visible and invisible, among thousands of service men and women. The quality of their post-injury care is a true measure of the commitment of our nation to honor them and their sacrifice on behalf of us all. First Lady Michelle Obama has done a commendable job in raising public awareness of what military families endure.
At USA Cares, a national military charity that provides financial and employment assistance to post 9/11 veterans and active duty personnel, demand is already on the rise. The need for financial assistance to enable PTSD rehab therapy is approaching $1 million, with thousands of cases still undiagnosed.
Lack of employment is now the number one reason military families are losing their homes to foreclosure. The USA Cares Jobs For Vets program is striving to save homes while matching up vets with jobs. The return of thousands from deployment will only serve to heighten the demand on these high need, high stress areas.
When the parades are over and the troops go home, the time to truly honor our national commitment to our veterans begins. As we gratefully start to welcome them home during this 10th anniversary of 9/11, let's redouble our efforts to show them how much we appreciate their service and their families' sacrifices by making very sure that our nation's commitments to their care and well-being are fully met.
Bill Nelson, Radcliff, KY
The writer is executive director of USA Cares.