- - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Life is all about give and take — at least, that’s what we’re told since childhood. But for our nation’s service members and their families, this sense of balance is off.

Our military members are prepared to lay down their lives to protect our freedom. Their 2.9 million family members stand behind them with pride. But the network of support they rely on to face the challenges of military life is weakening.

We ask President Trump, and our fellow Americans, to recognize the service and sacrifice of our military families — and provide them the support they need to remain strong.

Since September 11th, almost 3 million service members have deployed in support of our freedom. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have faded from public view, so much that most Americans think these wars are over. But they’re not. In fact, nearly 300,000 troops are currently deployed throughout the world to these areas and elsewhere. You’ve seen the headlines about 3,500 soldiers leaving their families in Colorado and heading to Poland for training and what the Department of Defense calls “security cooperation activities.” Almost 300 Marines are leaving Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for training and exercises north of the Arctic Circle in Norway.

Whether our troops are in combat zones, on ships, or in training with our allies, military families pay the price. Their loved one isn’t here. Their husband, father, wife or mother is in a dangerous place, far from home. Meanwhile, the family is forced to move on without them. Thousands of military children will celebrate birthdays or graduations this year with one or both parents deployed.

Nearly 7,000 service members have died in combat in the last 15 years of war, leaving grieving families to pick up the pieces of what was taken from them.

Families fortunate enough to see their loved ones return from battle often discover that invisible wounds, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), have changed their lives forever.

Military spouses struggle to achieve their educational and career goals amid the challenges of military life, including raising children as a single parent while their service member is deployed. Why does that matter? Because sometimes that spouse’s paycheck is sorely needed to keep the family finances above water — especially if an illness or injury forces the family out of military life without the support they need.

Military families willingly take on these sacrifices. They are proud and amazingly resilient, but they’re tired. In return for their sacrifices, they need continued support from all Americans, but especially from our leaders in Washington. The readiness of our military members depends on the strength of their families.

Perhaps the greatest burden our military families bear today is uncertainty. Years of budget battles have left these families wondering whether the resources they rely on will disappear. Sequestration has put military pay and benefits on the chopping block over and over again, adding to the uncertainty faced by our troops and their families. It has gutted some of the support programs families need most, especially those dealing with deployments, frequent moves and other military life challenges.

It’s time for our nation’s policymakers and our new commander in chief to demonstrate they understand how much our service members and their families sacrifice.

We must never take the giving spirit of our service members and their families for granted.

Thanks to their selflessness, our liberties are guaranteed.

Let’s give thanks as a grateful nation and demand our nation’s families are taken care of, without compromise.

Joyce Raezer is executive director of the National Military Family Association. She’s a military spouse, staunch military family advocate and recognized expert on military families.

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