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Angels Who Support Our Veterans

Here's information for injured veterans and those who wish to help.

By Amy Leibrock, New York, New York


While combat deaths are down, disabilities from wounds have increased for those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan when compared to the Vietnam era. Here are six non-profit organizations whose missions are to serve those servicemen and women who have come into harm’s way while deployed in today’s war zones.

U.S. Army Captain Scotty Smiley, who was blinded and temporally paralyzed by shrapnel in Iraq in 2005, has been able to adapt to his injuries and even thrive.  But had he been fighting a generation ago in the Vietnam War, his chances of surviving his injuries would've been much lower. 

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In today's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one in 10 wounded U.S. soldiers die from their injuries compared with one in every four during the Vietnam War. Medical advances have made it possible to save more lives of our servicemen and women. 

But the high number of injured vets–almost 32,000 as of May 9, 2008–is also due to the nature of the fighting. Shrapnel wounds from roadside bombs and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) are common and often cause head injuries, like the one Smiley endured. 

Additionally, delays and shortcomings in treatment have been reported, as the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs strain to care for this new generation of veterans. Some vets don't have access to the type of treatment they need in their areas and others get frustrated navigating the bureaucratic channels required to receive benefits. 

Many vets returning with mental health problems, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression, receive inadequate treatment–or go undiagnosed–according to a study by the RAND Corporation. 

While the government is taking steps to deal with these issues–like updating the IT systems that handle medical records, hiring new staff to process claims and improving mental health training–changes might not happen soon enough for those in immediate need. 

That's why we've put together a list of six resources for both vets and their families and those who want to help them.

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1. Wounded Warrior Project (WWP)
This nonprofit provides a range of services for severely injured service members, including sports programs, peer mentoring and Wounded Warrior Backpacks, which contain items like clothing, toiletries, calling cards, CD players and playing cards to help make stays at trauma centers more comfortable. WWP also advocates for wounded veterans. 

2. Homes for Our Troops
Many severely injured service members return to homes that aren’t accessible to them and their new disabilities. This nonprofit has stepped in to help by adapting existing homes and building new ones for disabled veterans at no cost to them. The organization accepts donations of money, materials and time, and offers ideas for fundraisers.

3. Fisher House Foundation
Fisher House provides family members of wounded soldiers with free lodging at major military and VA medical centers so they can be close to their loved ones during their hospitalization. The Fisher Houses, which provide the comforts of home and a supportive environment, have housed more than 10,000 families since 1990. The foundation also offers scholarships to military children and spouses, free websites that families can build to keep in touch, and Hero Miles, a program for donating frequent flyer miles to service members and their families.