Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When Your Wife, Sister or Daughter Comes Home From War

Women are making a profoundly positive impact on the U.S. military. According to the latest Pentagon figures, more than 200,000 women, including some 70 generals and admirals, currently serve our country. Nearly 15 percent of the active-duty force of 1.4 million troops are women, including about 74,000 in the Army, 53,000 in the Navy, 62,000 in the Air Force and 14,000 in the Marine Corps.

But our female heroes, like Marissa Strock (left), an Army veteran I proudly profiled for Newsweek several years ago who lost both her legs in an IED blast in Iraq, face some unique and daunting challenges. Namely, the disturbing epidemic of military sexual assault. More than 26,000 active-duty troops were sexually assaulted in 2012, up from about 19,000 in the same period a year before, according to a Department of Defense study released earlier this year. 

Not surprisingly, there's also been a substantial increase since 9/11 in post-traumatic stress (PTSD) among women in the military as a result of these assaults, and because more female troops are involved in combat-related operations. 

An American Psychiatric Assn. study found that women were denied insurance coverage for PTSD treatment at a higher rate than men because of a former stipulation that required combat experience to qualify for the benefit. Under long overdue rule changes enacted in 2010, any veteran deployed to a combat zone can seek care for PTSD. 

But mental health experts at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are only beginning to understand the unique needs of women who are dealing with these invisible scars of war.

Female military members also face a greater chance of divorce than their male counterparts, according to a Rand Corporation study released this week, and are coping along with their male counterparts with the VA's inexcusable backlog of unprocessed disability claims. 

And if all that weren't enough, female veterans are now the fastest growing segment of America's homeless population.

Thankfully, there are many out there who are trying to help. Veteran-staffed law firms like Bergmann & Moore, which solely represents veterans who have claims at the VA, and compassionate corporations like The Home Depot, are reaching out to female veterans and trying to make a real difference in their lives.

This month, the Home Depot Foundation, which for more than a decade has worked to improve the homes of military veterans through financial and volunteer resources to help nonprofit organizations, launches its third-annual Celebration of Service – an effort to repair and renovate more than 350 veterans housing and service facilities from Sept. 11 to Veterans Day.

On Thursday, more than 125 Los Angeles-based Home Depot associate volunteers will launch the nationwide volunteer effort by renovating the home of veteran and single mom Lidia Perez, as well as transforming a housing facility – the Haviland House – that will provide emergency transitional housing to 10 women veterans and their children. 

These housing projects are part of the foundation’s Celebration of Service campaign, a two-month initiative backed by a five-year, $80 million commitment to ensure that military veterans and their families have a safe place to call home.

Emily Simpson, a Home Depot store manager in Long Beach, Calif., is an Army veteran who was stationed in Mannheim, Germany, where she served as a platoon leader, shop officer and, eventually, the battalion S-4. She tells The Reno Dispatch that The Home Depot and the military are similar in that they are both male-dominated entities.

"To have been able to be a successful leader in both worlds has been awesome," she says. "I am so blessed to be part of an organization that understands the meaning of giving back. Not only am I a veteran, but I am also the daughter of a 30-year Army Airborne Ranger. I absolutely know the sacrifice that is made by military families and the veterans they serve. The Home Depot Foundation is right on the mark in their efforts to help veteran families rebuild their lives and the places they call home."

Emily tells me these projects show our veterans that they matter. "Our sacrifice during Celebration of Service is nothing in comparison to the sacrifice made by these veterans," she says. "But I know that we are making a difference. You can see it in their eyes when a new fence gets put up,when a new garden is created, when a fresh coat of paint goes on, or when a wheel chair ramp gets built. The impact is immediate and lasts a lifetime."

Each fall, the foundation mobilizes its army of nearly 9,000 Team Depot volunteers, who work side-by-side with veterans to complete as many as 350 projects across the country. Each service project is designed to address unique needs of our nation’s heroes including retrofitting homes for wheelchair-bound veterans; creating an outdoor oasis for veteran families to enjoy together; providing necessary repairs to transitional housing facilities; and much more.

"Many veterans and their families find themselves without a safe place to call home after bravely serving our country," says Kelly Caffarelli, president of The Home Depot Foundation. "Our mission is not only to repair and refurbish the homes and facilities where veterans live and receive services, but also to say ‘thank you’ for their sacrifices.”

And thanks to you, Home Depot, for granting more than $340 million since 2002 to nonprofit organizations that improve homes, and lives.


  1. Jamie:

    Very good post. Like you, I am very proud of the women in the service. I have served with many women during the course of my career and found them first rate. However, I need to stress one point concerning the report last year of some 26,000 sexual assaults across the military service. Of the 26,000 reported, 14,000 were sexual assaults committed by males against males! This is the dirty little secret the Pentagon doesn't want to talk about because they have no answer for it. There was a time when parents didn't want their daughter to join the service for fear of rape. Now, unfortunately, parents have this same fear concerning their son. Keep up the good work.

    John Cook

    1. Thanks John. Agree with all you've said here.

  2. Holy cow, sounds like the military has been demasculated.I shudder to think what will happen to this country in another generation

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  4. She tells The Reno Dispatch that The Home Depot and the military are similar in that they are both male-dominated entities.