As 9/11 Approaches We Must Not Forget the Debt We Owe to Our Military

It may just be coincidental, but it certainly is serendipitous that the 10th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11 falls during the 70th anniversary year of the attacks on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941. Unlike Pearl Harbor, the 9/11 attacks did not happen thousands of miles offshore in an era of relatively primitive communications. Instead, they purposefully happened in New York City with the whole world watching. It had been 60 years since an enemy had attacked American shores.

Now, this anniversary marks 10 years since that awful day—but it also marks a decade of a successful national strategy of taking the fight to the enemy. This strategy was recognized early on as the best way to avoid a repeat of the attacks in New York and Washington. That it has worked is overwhelmingly due to the courage and sacrifice of the men and women—volunteers all—of the U.S. military.

All Americans owe our military personnel, and their families, our deepest gratitude for their service. Let’s not forget that over 100,000 remain deployed in volatile war zones, and will remain so for at least a few more years.

While the elimination of Usama bin Laden by Navy Seals reflects the incredible professionalism and skill of our military, it doesn’t mean the end of the threat—or the need to remain strong and vigilant.

Part of a soldier’s strength comes from his unit, his training, and his personal will to complete the mission.

But another key source of strength is his family. They need to know the family back home is OK, so they can stay focused on the battlefield. Financial pressures, particularly in today’s economy, have and continue to plague our service members and recent veterans.

USA Cares has been in the business of lending a “hand up” and not a “hand out” to tens of thousands of service members since 2003. We’ve stopped hundreds of foreclosures, over 1,000 evictions, and made it possible for over 500 veterans to attend PTSD rehabilitation. These activities represent a small part of the $8 million USA Cares has granted to our post 9/11 military in times of need.

Even a casual observer of recent activities in Washington would agree that the government isn’t the answer to everything—and that only the most naïve would think government programs and benefits are timely and matched perfectly to service members’ needs. That’s why they seek out charities like USA Cares. Large numbers of returning service members and shrinking federal budgets don’t bode well for reduced demand for services.

And that’s why one of the best things one can do on this 10th anniversary of 9/11 is to support the ongoing work of charities like USA Cares. Additionally, one can answer the call to volunteer at V.A. facilities, pack boxes for the deployed, and support the rehabilitation of the injured.

Remember, our continued safety is largely in the hands of that 1 per cent of Americans who serve. Let’s show them we haven’t forgotten 9/11 by letting them know we care.

Bill Nelson is the executive director of USA Cares.