Monday is Memorial Day. While this day is often associated with the unofficial beginning of summer, backyard barbecues, and the date when it’s finally safe to put plants in the ground here in Wisconsin, it really is about a whole lot more. Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor those men and women in the service who gave their lives for their country. Although Memorial Day is set aside to honor our fallen soldiers, it also serves as a good reminder to take a closer look at how we are treating our veterans who actually did make it back home. This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart as I have several family members (including my husband) who are veterans.
When we look at some of the statistics around the support of veterans in the US, they paint a pretty sad picture. Veterans are people who signed on to serve their country with the full realization that it could cost them their lives and they deserve our full support both while they are actively serving and for the rest of their lives once they are no longer in active service. Yet we see time and time again that our vets are struggling when it comes time to reenter civilian life. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, each year, more than 200,000 men and women serving in the military return to civilian life and many find it difficult to navigate multiple agencies offering job placement and other services. In 2016, there were more than 450,000 unemployed veterans in the United States, 40 percent of whom were between the ages of 18 to 44 (Department of Labor).
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the need and feel like it is an insurmountable problem. Even small gestures can add up and help a soldier, veteran, or their family no matter what stage of service they are currently in. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Walmart and The Motherhood to share my opinions on this important topic and some ideas of how to help veterans and their families both this Memorial Day weekend and all through the year. This Memorial Day, to support families who have suffered the ultimate sacrifice, Walmart is giving a $100,000 grant to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), the national organization that offers help, hope and healing to all those grieving the death of a loved one serving in the Armed Forces. This generous grant will enable TAPS to reach more survivors through their Casework and Emergency Assistance Programs.
But what can one person or one family do to help?
Donate or volunteer with organizations that support veterans and military families.
Visit a wounded veteran or make a card or care package for a military family.
Volunteer or donate to a charity that helps military families or veterans such as:
If you are the member of a military family yourself, thank you so much for your sacrifice. We know that the soldier is not the only one who gives things up in order to serve our country – they family also experiences challenges and needs our support. Walmart is committed to helping to support both veterans and their families. Walmart’s Military Family Promise guarantees a job at a nearby store or Club for all military personnel and military spouses employed by Walmart and Sam’s Club who move to a different part of the country because they or their spouse have been transferred by the United States military. In 2014, Walmart doubled a $20 million commitment to support veterans and their families with assistance for programs that provide job training, transition help and education through 2019. Walmart seeks to support veterans and showcase the value they bring to the workforce and our communities through initiatives such as Hiring our Heroes, Greenlight A Vet and the Coalition for Veteran Owned Business. Four years ago, Walmart introduced the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment, which guarantees a job offer to any eligible, honorably discharged U.S. veteran who was within 12 months of active duty, with a goal of hiring 250,000 veterans by the end of 2020. As of now, Walmart has hired more than 170,000 veterans, and more than 22,000 have been promoted to jobs with greater responsibility.
Lastly, educate the next generation about the sacrifices that have been made so that we can enjoy the life we so often take for granted. This weekend, take a minute and talk about what Memorial Day really means. Attend a Memorial Day parade or a local military cemetery and pay your respects. And if you have a veteran in your family, give them an extra hug!