Do you have anything special planned for Veterans Day? Did you even realize that tomorrow is Veterans Day?
Sadly, in much the same way that the wars we are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq have been pushed to the periphery of our national conversation, the day set aside to honor America's veterans usually gets short shrift.
Despite all the lip service paid by politicians and pundits to supporting our troops, the needs and struggles of those returning home are rarely in the spotlight.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 107,000 veterans were homeless each night last year. That's an improvement on the 131,000 who were homeless in 2008, and the 154,000 in 2007, but it's still a very troubling figure.
And there is more bad news: veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide as the general population. According to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, "on average, 18 veterans commit suicide each day. Five of those 18 are under VA care at the time they take their lives." And between 2005 and 2009, a soldier on active duty committed suicide every 36 hours.
What's more, roughly 300,000 vets have come home from Afghanistan and Iraq suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
As devastating as these numbers are, the flesh and blood stories behind the statistics are even more compelling -- as are the inspiring stories of the work being done by people dedicated to helping veterans.
To honor the sacrifice and service of the men and women of America's armed services, HuffPost Impact, in partnership with Causecast, is launching Salute to Service -- a week-long series highlighting the stories of veterans who have committed their time, energy, and effort to helping serve their fellow soldiers.
Starting today, Salute to Service will feature first-person blog posts from veterans who have become active in serving their community. The soldiers movingly recount their experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, what their lives were like upon returning home, and why they became involved in community service. The posts also feature a specific call to action, what each of the soldiers would like to see the rest of us do to help America's vets -- on Veterans Day and beyond.
These posts also contain a customized Salute to Service widget that makes it easy for you to take action -- either by donating, volunteering, or learning more about the remarkable organizations geared to helping vets. There's even a button that makes it possible to instantly donate 25 cents per click to a selected veterans organization.
It would be a fitting tribute if Veterans Day could become a national day of service devoted to giving back to those who have given so much in service of our country -- as well as a day that inspires us to make sure that the plight of America's vets stays on the radar all year long.
P.S. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has launched a Facebook campaign to get the country engaged in supporting new vets. Click here to join IAVA's online march.
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