Americans: this week, in honor of the troops and Memorial Day, consider donating to a food pantry.
About a quarter of military households in the U.S. rely on food stamps to put food on the table. Despite the fact that officers are now paid more than ever before, rank and file military members often earn less than $25,000 a year — hardly enough in some parts of the country to comfortably support a family with children.
Upon fulfilling their duties and leaving the armed forces, veterans often find that the skills they learned in the military don’t automatically open doors to civilian jobs. More than 12 percent of post-9/11 veterans – those who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – live in poverty. The unemployment rate among those same veterans in 2011 was also more than 12%.
Military members and their families make enormous sacrifices in the name of defending their country, beyond the ultimate sacrifice of putting life and limb on the line in combat. A military career requires frequent moves and long stretches with one or more family members away from home, especially during wartime. The nomadic-by-necessity lifestyle of a military household can make it difficult for members of the military to build savings or build career skills outside of the armed forces – and difficult for the civilian spouses of soldiers to keep a steady job.
Military families have always faced such challenges, but during the last decade that the United States has been at war, with no draft in place, the fewer than one percent of Americans who actively serve in the military have borne an historically unprecedented burden. Many families have seen fathers, mothers, husbands and wives deployed on long missions not just once or twice, but repeatedly over the course of several years. The veterans returning to civilian life now are coming home to a remarkably bleak job market in an economy still struggling to recover from one of the worst economic collapses in history.
As a result, far too many of those who risk their lives for their country on the war front are now returning to a daily battle for basic economic security on the homefront.
America’s troops deserve better and we as fellow citizens can help. There are many charities working to help hungry veterans and military families:
- The USO (United Service Organizations) has set up local food pantries across the country at military bases.
- Operation Home Front offers food assistance to military families in need.
- Feeding America member food banks host special programs for military families and veterans nationwide.
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Photo of canned foods by Tomomarusan, from Wikimedia Commons. Used under Creative Commons license.