Dempsey calls on community to care for soldiers, families
The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The military’s top-ranking officer implored hundreds of people Friday night to focus on public-private partnerships in providing assistance to military families as the nation’s war on terror stretches into a second decade.
“We’re looking at a process that will require us to stay true to these young men and women for a very, very long time,” said Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The general’s remarks came at the annual fundraising dinner at The Broadmoor for Home Front Cares, a Colorado Springs nonprofit that helps active duty troops and veterans with emergencies, including assisting with rent payments when soldiers face eviction.
The organization assisted 500 families across Colorado last year, in part by raising $850,000 in fiscal year 2012, which ran from May 1, 2011 through April 30, 2012. In recent months, half of those clients have come from the Denver metro area.
The organization’s goal is to raise $1.125 million this year.
An increasing number of people seeking aid from the organization are veterans — a sign of the decreasing number of troops at war and the military’s planned draw down of troops.
The Army plans to scale back its forces by 80,000 troops in the coming years while pulling out most troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Veterans accounted for more than 70 percent of the organization’s clients this year — many of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said George Hayward, manager of development for Home Front Cares.
In fiscal year 2009, 46 percent of the organization’s clients were veterans, he said.
“In most cases, when these men and women come to us, they are coming in desperation,” said Ed Anderson, the organization’s president and a retired lieutenant general.
In a video shown Friday night, the wife of a medically-discharged Army sergeant said the organization helped cover utilities — as well as several other bills — that kept them from being evicted.
“We wouldn’t have a place to live, simple as that,” said Jessica Jones.
Dempsey, who served at Fort Carson from 1996 through 1998 as colonel of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, used a picture of two soldiers fighting a battle to illustrate the need for community support of returning soldiers.
In it, the soldiers looked in opposite directions — one speaking on a radio, the other providing cover.
They trusted each other, he said. They had each other’s backs. The same should hold true for community organizations serving returning and discharged troops, he said.
“He’s got to have the confidence that when he goes out on his missions, that he’ll get what he needs — literally in the field, but that also that somebody will take care of his family if something happens to him.”