This past week, I was fortunate to play in the Wounded Warrior charity golf tournament. This commendable project aims to raise awareness and enlist the support of the public's aid for severely injured service men and women while at the same time creating an environment of support which allows these injured heroes to recuperate with high-quality care and treatments.
As a result of our Global War on Terror, nearly 35,000 United States service personnel have been seriously wounded in combat. Shockingly, out of the 755,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Department of Veterans Affairs says more than 181,000 are collecting disability benefits of some type - many requiring grueling physical therapy and continuing care in an attempt to get about with their daily lives. And not surprisingly, many young men and women are returning with emotional scars that may take years to uncover and resolve.
Only half of the wounded are able to return to duty. The rest of these courageous veterans who have suffered so much not only deal with the physical loss, but also the loss of their livelihood and community. This difficult transition requires not only the support of family and friends, but also practical training and tools.
These men and women have put their lives on the line and have sacrificed so much to keep us safe. Yet too often, sitting in the comfort and safety they fought to provide, those of us back home forget the sacrifices made and allow these valiant individuals to slip into obscurity.
One of the young men I met over the weekend was golfing with a prosthetic device. He lost his leg to an IED explosion. When I see that sacrifice, how can I not respond with gratitude and with action?
The Wounded Warrior Project, and others like them, has put their full resources behind advocating for these heroes. It's time to ensure that not only are our veterans given the resources they need, but also that those of us who benefited from the protection of our armed forces work not only for the quality of their medical care, but also their quality of life. This includes support for continued GI Bills, for caregiver relief, family support, counseling and job training.
In the defense of our nation, a small share of our citizenry continues to sacrifice so much for the greater good. Now it is our time - as neighbors, as Americans - to ensure that each of these patriots and their families receive the care necessary to live their lives to the fullest.
Over the last several months, so many politicians have felt the need to apologize for America. After participating in an event yesterday where so many people came out to show their support for our wounded heroes, it makes you realize why we are better off applauding America.
We have a chance to serve our wounded warriors, not simply out of a sense of duty, but in celebration of the freedom and nobility of this country and those who have bled to make it so. I am honored to stand beside these men and women in any way I can, knowing that while our roles have been different, our fight is the same, and this great country is our shared heritage.
I ask each of you to visit www.woundedwarriorproject.com to learn more about their efforts. As your situation allows, I ask that you take the extra step of volunteering your time or donating to their effort. Those who have fought for us, who continue to fight for us, must never be forgotten.
Mike Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation.
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