07/03/2012 02:43 pm ET | Updated Sep 02, 2012

Heroes at Home: A Celebration of the American Spirit

Launched five years ago at a critical time in the country when the continued care of our nation's returning veterans was in jeopardy, Heroes at Home is Rebuilding Together and Sears' flagship housing program assisting veterans. Heroes at Home responds to the rising housing and living needs of our heroes, who had sustained debilitating injures on the battlefields.

Anniversaries and holidays serve as an opportunity for reflection. Over the past five years, we have been inspired by the courage of our nation's veterans and the family members who support them. We realize that it was their outstanding courage which gave us the strength to do more with each passing year. We think about the challenges, barriers and successes that we experienced along the journey.

With the wonderful support of Sears Holdings, their vendors and customers, we raised over $16 million to give back to our veterans and their families. A further $45 million has been leveraged in local contributions, which has welcomed over 1,000 veterans back into safe and healthy homes that are modified to fit their essential living needs. The incredible patronage from the diverse groups of leaders, individuals and businesses has given our nation's veterans a home deserving of their service, deserving of their sacrifice.

Historians will look back at the period of the past five years as a time of great economic upheaval. With our nation fighting two wars overseas, and an economy that teetered on the brink collapse, the American people faced challenges of an enigmatic and unknown nature. American businesses and organizations in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, had to dig deep to find ways of meeting their obligations to their stakeholders, and in some cases, simply to remain in business.

However against this unsettling backdrop, Heroes at Home unearthed the utter meaning of the word "hero." Everyday Americans found a way to rally around noble and just causes in order to help their neighbor. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, unemployment in our nation ranged from 5 to 10 percent during the period of 2007-2012. Yet Rebuilding Together found that many who opted to volunteer on a Heroes at Home project, were those that were unemployed, or had fallen on hard times due to the unstable climate. These were people whose own circumstances were less than favorable, but they decided to use their extra time and skill to help others.

With less discretionary income during the past five years, Americans were understandably selective on the causes with which to extend their support. However, Heroes at Home's mission and purpose continued to grow in spite of a decrease in giving trends. The Heroes at Home program truly embodies its very namesake: heroes.

We have discovered heroes throughout the country in diverse communities. From Seattle to Chicago, we came across extraordinary people who were able to marshal entire communities and neighborhoods to the housing needs of their severely disabled Hero at Home. To them we owe a debt of gratitude.

As our nation marks its annual 4th of July celebrations with barbeques and picnics, let us to take a moment to remember the true sacrifices that our service men and women have made. Duty and sacrifice must be rewarded with our help and support. We should employ our veterans as well as provide quality affordable housing for our veterans. We need to thank our veterans. Our veterans should be recognized for who they are -- our nation's Heroes at Home. Five years of helping our Heroes have not been enough; it is, in fact, only the beginning.

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