Help show military troops and families that you care

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By April Speake

Executive Director, The Home Front Cares

The war stories I’ve heard from military spouses are heart-wrenching — hardships and obstacles that are seemingly insurmountable, uncertain futures and a society that is sometimes oblivious to the struggle.

And those challenges are magnified by fear for loved ones who are deployed thousands of miles away. Sometimes you wonder how they survive.

Military families fight wars too.

Every day, hundreds of Colorado Springs-based military families struggle for survival while their spouses fight to protect our freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly every person in Colorado Springs knows someone whose spouse has gone to war. When soldiers deploy, they leave behind wives, husbands and children. Our neighbors, our friends, and our children’s friends.

Most are young parents and spouses, often living on their own for the first time, usually far away from their hometown and the support structure of family. Military life, particularly for junior enlisted people, is not lucrative, particularly in today’s economy when many young spouses struggle to find work. The financial battle to make ends meet can be so tenuous that many junior enlisted families qualify for food stamps. They are one car repair, one sick child, one unexpected expense away from financial ruin.

That is how you and I can help.

Since 2003, The Home Front Cares has provided more than $2 million in emergency financial aid to the families of deployed military personnel. We’ve helped more than 1,800 Colorado-based military families pay rent, utilities, car repairs and other expenses that keep food on their children’s tables and roofs over loved ones’ heads. We’ve done it with a staff of just three people, a battalion of caring and giving volunteers, a few grants and the kind donations of our community. But even as the war in Iraq winds down and service members come home, the needs of our military families are not decreasing, they are increasing. The Home Front Cares provided more aid in the first four months of fiscal 2011 than it did in all of 2010.

On Oct. 21, The Home Front Cares will show our appreciation for the sacrifices of our military and their families with our seventh annual “For the Love of Our Troops” dinner at The Broadmoor. Our guests will include soldiers, Marines and airmen wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, their spouses, and many of Colorado Springs’ business and community leaders. I am especially excited about this year’s keynote speaker, retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey. The Army’s most decorated four-star general, McCaffrey commanded the famous “left hook” attack into Iraq during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and also was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces Southern Command, leading national security operations in Latin America. After retiring from the Army, he served as director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and remains an active consultant and media analyst for national security issues. I expect his comments and insights on today’s national security landscape will be fascinating.

I invite you to join us for an entertaining evening filled with compassion and camaraderie. Your contribution, for tables, individual seats or sponsorship, will not only show your military neighbors that you appreciate their sacrifices, but also help The Home Front Cares aid them when their need is greatest away from the battlefield.

For more information about The Home Front Cares and the “For The Love Of Our Troops VII” dinner, visit www.thehomefrontcares.org, and Like and Share The Home Front Cares on Facebook.