Earlier this month during a media interview, I was asked the question "Are Americans supportive of our troops?" My answer was two-fold: Yes, and no.
After 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, our troops are coming home from war to a difficult economy, staggering foreclosure rates (many of which were illegal), threats of cuts to the military and to veteran benefits and high levels of unemployment.
Veterans and military members are in a crisis now more than ever before.
I explained in this interview that there is a huge disconnect between our military and the American public, which is quite palpable to those of us within the military community. I have noted through each passing year people have detached themselves from the war, opting to watch the latest media coverage highlighting celebrity temper tantrums, red-carpet attire or the latest royal wedding. I believe we are using reality TV to escape from the realities of what is going on in our very own communities. Even the media outlets have pulled away from covering the news about this war.
At the same time, I also explained that a decade of war also means more people have been directly affected in some way or another and cannot escape their need for support. More and more Americans are related to, or know, someone who has been injured in life-altering ways. Many thousands more are directly affected by combat casualties and the ever-increasing suicide rate.
Less than 1% of our American population is serving in the military. The other 99% of Americans must -- and need -- to do their part. A yellow ribbon bumper sticker just won't cut it anymore.
This economy has restricted the frequency or amount of donations given to veteran nonprofits by the general public. This adds to the dilemma.
I believe Americans want to help, they just don't know how ... or simply believe they can't.
As the wife and full-time caretaker of a severely-injured veteran, I take note of those who truly support our troops. I know which programs are serving veterans effectively. I also know which ones are not. There have been times where we were exploited by a self-purported nonprofit after finding my husband's picture on their website. Brazenly, they were requesting donations for our family. We did not solicit their help to begin with. Whatever donations were given, we never saw a dime. I wasn't worried about whether we'd get the money; rather, I was worried that people had given in good faith to a scam and would never know what happened to their money.
Americans must have due diligence when it comes to sharing their hard-earned money with nonprofits, fictional or real. Most people don't even realize there are many options to support our troops without having to give blindly.
In fact, I happen to know there is a way to give and receive at the same time.
Last month, my husband and I were honored at the Helping a Hero Gala in Houston, Texas. We were accompanied by Laura Bush who presented us and 20 other families with a "Welcome Home" key. This was a gesture that meant the world to us in many ways. When my husband was injured, there were no parades. We had no home to go to.
Our struggles didn't end when we left the hospital. They had only just begun. Seven years after my husband's injury, we are finally getting to a point where we can pick up the pieces and "get on with our life" once again.
We are incredibly thankful for the support of programs like HelpingaHero.org. Had it not been for their program, we would not be where we are today. Here is a great video to learn more about this year's gala and the HelpingaHero.org program:
I want Americans to know how to support our troops.
This brings me to my point that there are ways you can give and receive if you truly want to help.
Earlier this year, Spark Energy partnered with HelpingaHero.org to launch the Power for Heroes plan. When you sign up for the Power for Heroes plan, Spark Energy will donate a portion of your electric bill to Helping a Hero. Plus, you'll get to enjoy a special low rate while helping fund critical services for wounded veterans.
Having been on the receiving end of this type of support, this is a program that makes sense for every American who wants to support our troops.
I hope the next time I am asked, "Are Americans supportive of our troops?" I can reply with a resounding YES.
For more information or to sign up for the Power for Heroes plan, go to sparkenergy.com/TROOPS or call 877-547-7275 and ask for the Power for Heroes plan.
For more information about HelpingaHero.org, visit their website at www.helpingahero.org.
Follow Torrey Shannon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TorreyLisa