Our ‘Sea of Goodwill’ must sustain family members who carry on after the ultimate sacrifice
Memorial Day is the solemn occasion on which we respectfully remember those in uniform who have given their lives in service to our country. I can think of no better way to honor their memory than by recognizing and supporting the family members for whom they will forever be irreplaceable and those who served alongside them.
We have laid to rest 50,085 service members in less than 25 years. Bereavement experts estimate that for each military loss, there are 10 “surviving” family members, friends and relatives who deeply feel the loss. The military service Casualty Assistance Programs offer immediate help, and the Gold Star organizations, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and others come alongside, almost simultaneously, with their mutual commitment to sustain one another long-term with an almost invincible resilience.
The families of those who survive a wound, illness or injury again receive immediate and long-term support. Military service Recovery Coordination Programs provide care coordinators and manage comprehensive care plans for thousands of service members, according to the Defense Department. Veterans Affairs maintains and builds on these individual recovery care plans with specialized programs such as the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service and stipends to help caregivers (usually a spouse or parent) provide personalized assistance for their severely injured loved one with training support by nonprofit organizations such as Easter Seals.
The exceptional bravery of the families of our surviving and wounded warriors is a most special and inspiring example of the overall dedication of our nation’s total force – the military/veteran/family community that affords us our freedoms. Groups such as the National Military Family Association have long recognized their service and advocated for their quality health care, access to good schools and career opportunities. Newer, complementary groups such as the Military Child Education Coalition and Blue Star Families, have added valuable networks that reinforce the visibility of issues including military dependent education and spouse employment.