In 1954, the 83rd Congress was successful in changing Armistice Day, a national holiday celebrating the heroism of our World War I veterans, to a day that honors the bravery and sacrifice of all veterans—Veterans Day. Today, we pay tribute to those who fought to preserve our freedoms, we honor the valor of our service members, and we remember those we lost. However, on Veterans Day, we should also remember that our country is still at war, and that the veterans of these wars are facing tremendous new obstacles, and therefore, so are their children.

Today, there are two million children who have had a parent deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Both of these wars have been unlike any other war we’ve seen before. Not only is our active military much smaller (30.8 percent than it was in 1990), but also deployments are longer and exist almost solely on a repeat cycle. More than one half million service members have served two combat tours, and tens of thousands have been deployed five or more times. The longer amount of time our service members are away from home and in battle have its consequences on families; a third of all military children score as “high risk” for psychosocial dysfunction. Additionally, over 40,000 service members have returned from recent wars wounded; and a full twenty percent of all of them return home with PTSD or depression; these visible and invisible wounds have serious repercussions for their children and families.

Beyond the numerous stresses multiple deployments have on military children, the systems that were once designed to support these children and their families are also no longer adequate. Why? Forty percent of today’s service members have at least one child; this is huge a departure from the pre-draft era, when only a small amount of officers had families and lived on base. Today, the services to support the shear number of children just aren’t there—whether we’re talking about child-care, education, or health services. Additionally, the majority of affected military children now live off base, especially with the increase of our dependence on Reserve and Guard members, isolated from a supportive community and easier access to social services.

The Pentagon has been taking steps to mitigate some of these issues. They currently operate an office which monitors the conditions of military families and commissions most of the existing support services. Additionally, the Pentagon has created various state liaison offices that focus on local challenges facing military families. The White House has also taken an interest in this issue as well. Both First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden have recently been campaigning for greater support for our military families, in particular, the Administration’s work to streamline state credential processes, so military spouses can quickly find a new job after a move.

With that said, although progress is slowly being made, as you can see, we still have a tremendous uphill battle when it comes to truly honoring the service our veterans and their families. It’s an important gesture to recognize our veterans, but our country needs to start supporting each one of them where it counts: at home.

To help a military family in your community go to:

– Serve.gov
– National Military Family Association
– United Service Organization: Get Involved