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5 Things You Didn't Know About Veterans (And How You Can Support Them)

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Veteran's Day only happens once a year, but our nation's veterans need our support year-round. We've pulled together five facts about U.S. veterans, the great organizations that are supporting them and how you can help any time of the year.

FACT
260,000 veterans will be homeless this year.

WHO IS DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT
The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans offers resources and technical assistance for a national network of community-based service providers and agencies that provide emergency and supportive housing, food, health services, job training and placement assistance, legal aid and case management support for hundreds of thousands of homeless veterans each year. Over the past six years, the NCHV and their partner organizations have collaborated with the Department of Veteran Affairs to halve the number of homeless veterans in America.

HOW YOU CAN HELP
You can help veterans in your community by volunteering at a shelter, being a mentor or legal aid, organizing a Stand Down program or developing a veteran burial program in your area. Check out the community-based vet organizations that need volunteers in your area.

You can also advocate for homeless veterans in your local government and community. Or donate directly to the NCHV.

FACT
65,000 Veterans have recorded their individual war stories at the Library of Congress' American Folklife Center

WHO IS DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT
The Veterans History Project at the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. They currently store thousands of audio and videotapes, personal memoirs, visual materials and correspondence from American Service members dating back to World War I.

HOW YOU CAN HELP
You can help veterans commit their stories to history by collecting them with the project's Field Kit. Interview family members at your next family reunion, gather war-related correspondence or visit a retirement community and get to know the veterans there. You can then honor and promote these stories with various community events.

FACT
As many as 35 percent of Iraq Veterans have or will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The NIMH defines PTSD as "an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened." People who have PTSD have persistent frightening thoughts and memories, can feel emotionally numb and can have trouble sleeping or being startled easily.

WHO IS DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT
Give An Hour provides mental health services free of charge to U.S. troops and their families. Mental health professionals volunteer to treat patients free of charge, and once their treatment is completed, troops and their family are encouraged to give back to their community by volunteering with a nonprofit organization in their area.

HOW YOU CAN HELP
In addition to pro-bono work by mental health professionals, Give an Hour needs volunteers who are knowledgeable in administration, communications, fundraising and event management. You can also donate directly to the organization.

FACT
There are more than 5.5 million U.S. veterans living with a disability.

WHO IS DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT
Disabled American Veterans provides services, outreach and advocacy to veterans in need across the country.

HOW YOU CAN HELP
Through DAV, you can volunteer to drive vets to and from VA hospitals and clinics, volunteer at your local VA hospital, or provide special services to the sick and disabled veterans in your community. You can also donate to support their services.

FACT
184,251 troops are currently on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon.

WHO IS DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT
There are many organizations that can facilitate transport of letters and care packages to our troops on active duty. One nonprofit, Give2TheTroops has provided care packages and letters to one million deployed U.S. troops. Since 2002, they've shipped 86,000 large boxes and 20 million letters and cards from caring citizens.

HOW YOU CAN HELP
With the holidays right around the corner, Give2TheTroops is organizing a "seasonal sights sounds and sweets" drive to send festive care packages to while they are abroad. The nonprofit has a huge list of suggested goods that you can donate to spread holiday cheer for the troops that receive the care packages. You can also work with friends and local groups in your community year-round to make care packages of the most popular items requested from troops to send through Give2TheTroops. The organization also accepts donations to cover their administration and mailing costs.

When veterans return from war, they expect the government to care for their needs and to keep the memory of their fellow soldiers alive. But often they find that the government is slow to help, or in some cases, can't help them at all. That's why community organizations have stepped forward to fill that gap. Some nonprofits, like the ones above, cater to a veteran's specific need. Others, like the National Veterans Foundation strive to provide comprehensive aid to our service men and women:

No matter how you choose to support our soldiers this Veterans Day, you can be sure they will appreciate it.

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