Are we ready? Is our community ready? Is our country ready to honor the moral obligation to ensure that its veterans and their families receive the services promised to them when they enlisted and to completely address any injury, illness or other disparity created as a result of their service?
There appears to be no end in sight to the ongoing stressors for military personnel and their families. The United States has been continuously at war for more than a decade with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan the longest in our nation's history. Persistent instabilities in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia are likely to keep American forces engaged in combat operations for many years to come. The demanding operational tempo of two challenging combat theaters coupled with the nature of the nation's all-volunteer force, and the expanded involvement of military reservists has meant that many service members have been deployed multiple times since 2001, which in turn has brought family and community issues to the forefront and into the realm of veterans issues. It is apparent that psychological and personal stresses for service members and their families are more prevalent and widespread than previously understood. The transition from military to civilian life can be difficult and is not always negotiated successfully.
We know that communities that successfully support their military-impacted populations are those that engage their entire citizenry in the unique challenges facing veterans transitioning home. Therefore, we need to create a coordinated community-based approach that brings together diverse sets of resources and identifies new opportunities across public and private sectors. It is unlikely that the needs of veterans and their families will be adequately addressed unless local, state and federal agencies join forces and work together with public and private nonprofit organizations that are providing services and care for them.