November 11th is a day set aside each year to honor and show gratitude to the men and women who have served in America’s armed forces. Veterans Day reminds us all of one thing – to show gratitude and honor the veterans of the uniformed services who served or are still serving. As a veteran myself and the President of The Kaufman Fund, a St. Louis-based veterans support group, today is greatly important to me.
Helping veterans is a rewarding task, and it’s one that Missourians understand is important and necessary. In Missouri alone, an estimated 5.7% of all veterans are unemployed, and over 650 veterans in the state are homeless. Missouri must do better, and our country can do better for those who put everything on the line for our freedom.
Struggling vets hold such a strong place in my heart, and they should have a place in yours, as they need our help. The men and women of our armed forces have protected our country for centuries, and over the last 50 years, studies have shown the distress our troops face. As Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) becomes a more open topic in our society, too many of our veterans continue to struggle in silence. PTSD can come into effect for troops as they can be exposed to different types of traumas that civilians simply will never face. An estimated 31% of service members develop PTSD, whether in low or high doses, when they return from combat.
PTSD, homelessness, and unemployment, among other factors, have led to a rapid rise in veterans suicide rates across the country. Vets are at a 57% higher risk of suicide than those who haven’t served, and an estimated 17 vets commit suicide every day in the United States. Over 125,000 of our vets have committed suicide since 2001, and that number continues to rise year after year, and it must stop. There is so much work left to be done.
In Missouri, there are many programs in place to address veterans’ homelessness and unemployment. As the President of The Kaufman Fund, I see this every day. We are a nonprofit that specializes in programs for employment, education, health, and housing issues, but more help is needed. Finding vets in need is not easy but through our Facebook group, The Kaufman Fund, we have been able to find more former members of our armed forces and provide the help they need. Veterans have reached out to us through social media, allowing more accessible aid and help to those in need. We have utilized Facebook fundraisers, allowing members of the community to donate towards specific vets, helping them get services they need, or sponsor vets’ children and their birthday. Service members of the United States military, both active-duty and retired, have all gone to great lengths keeping our country safe, and they deserve our respect and support.
Growing up in St. Louis, enlisting in the United States Army, and serving over two decades, I have seen firsthand the effects of combat on a person’s life. The men and women of our armed forces deserve better, and we must never forget the sacrifices our veterans made. Gratitude and honor are necessary for our troops, especially today on Veterans Day.
Wayne Kaufman is the president of The Kaufman Fund, a St. Louis nonprofit which specializes in providing programs for veterans. They help provide dental care, free or low-cost legal assistance, and mental health programs. For over 20 years, The Kaufman Fund has served St. Louis veterans, raising over $2 million. WWW.TheKaufmanFund.org