(BPT) – According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, close to 40 million men and women have served our country and risked their lives to protect our freedoms and the way of life we hold dear since the dawn of the 20th century. They have put themselves in harm’s way to protect, defend and serve countless individuals in countries around the world who face threat or harm from outside forces, and to stabilize and protect citizens and the vulnerable.
While many return home from their time of service to a hero’s welcome, some have faced more challenging receptions by some fellow citizens who, at the time, disagreed with or misunderstood the mission soldiers were assigned to carry out. While some receive support to pursue an education or a career when their service concludes, others face a life of struggle. Recent figures show close to 500,000 veterans over the age of 65 live below the poverty line. Similarly, only about half of veterans who need mental health support, often as a result of their service, receive care.
Our veterans deserve our gratitude. While our federal government wrestles with how to provide the support our veterans need, we are grateful for the plethora of organizations that work year-round to offer services and resources to this brave group of heroes. This is just a small sample of the nonprofit organizations that work tirelessly to help address the needs of our veterans.
Honoring the Memory
With financial grant support from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, The Museum of Flight is building a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park and the Oregon WWII Memorial Foundation has established a monument to honor the spirit and sacrifice of local veterans. The two memorials not only educate the public about the reality of war but serve as a place to honor the veterans who served, those who were lost and, as importantly, those who returned.
Building a Home
An initiative by Compass Housing Alliance reopened the Renton Lutheran Church to create a center for homeless veterans and their families. Within the space are 58 apartments as well as onsite services and job skills training. The project was designed to support veterans in the Renton area and help them and their families get back on their feet and out of homelessness for good.
Dedicated to the continual support of veterans throughout their lives, Friends of American Lake used a grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to expand its golf course. The Lakewood, Washington, facility has operated the course as a space for veterans to relax and recharge since the 1950s and this expansion increased capacity and accessibility.
Opening the Door to Employment
Albertsons Companies Foundation invests in several initiatives that support local veterans, including programs specifically designed to help servicemen and -women find employment. For example, the Employer Driven Curriculum Veteran Vocational Training Project by Swords to Plowshares helps connect veterans with apprenticeships, internships and job training programs.
Rebuilding Inner Peace
Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation helps post-9/11 combat veterans find a sense of peace and calm through the therapeutic practice of fly fishing. As a welcome break from surgeries or daily challenges, this soothing time on the water provides men and women with a period of serenity.
Continuing to support veterans no matter where you live
These are just a few examples of organizations across the Pacific Northwest that are taking action to support veterans in their regions. Now it’s your turn. No matter where you live, there is something you can do to continue to support our nation’s veterans, to show them you’re thankful and, most importantly, that they will never be forgotten. Whether you choose to support one of the organizations listed above or the myriad nonprofits that offer support and resources to our nation’s veterans, or share a simple gesture in your day-to-day life such as shaking a hand, sharing a smile or secretly paying a restaurant tab, there are so many ways we can and should say thank you to the men and women who protect us at home and abroad.