This Memorial Day the Center for American Progress honors our nation’s service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. On Monday we will pause to reflect on the service of the brave men and women who left their homes and their families since the founding of this great nation—some never to return—in order to protect their country and advance the pursuit of security and prosperity the world over.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, more than 1,800 servicemen and women have been killed in Afghanistan. As we observe this grim milestone, we are also humbled by the remembrance of the 4,400 service members who fell in operations in Iraq, which drew to a close at the end of 2011. These figures do not include the more than 11,000 service members wounded in Afghanistan, the more than 30,000 wounded in Iraq, and the more than 100,000 who have suffered mental wounds in these two conflicts.
As we continue to wind down our military involvement in Afghanistan—10,000 U.S. troops left Afghanistan in 2011 and 23,000 more will leave by this summer’s end—it is appropriate to take this opportunity as a country to reflect on all that our troops and their families have sacrificed over the past 11 years.
Americans are united across class, gender, race, and politics by their sincere wish for the swift and safe return of our men and women in uniform. That being said, this year marks the first time since 2003 that more troops are returning home than going to war. Even so, our active-duty and reserve soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and coast guardsmen honor their fallen comrades’ legacies by continuing to serve their country both domestically and internationally in many capacities.
For their sacrifice, these men and women deserve more than our respect; they deserve to be supported by programs and policies that improve their quality of life both during and after service. Below is a list of organizations dedicated to helping the men and women of our armed forces and their families.