On Veterans Day, we honor those who served and sacrificed to our country. Often, what first comes to mind are years of grueling training and harrowing deployments. However, some of the most difficult battles our service members face are being waged behind the scenes - long after active duty has ended. These battles impact the lives of our soldiers and their loved ones.
While we will never be able to fully repay our service members or their families for their service, the State of Tennessee is offering residents the ability to thank our heroes every day of the year. The Combat Action Specialty License Plates program, which was made possible by legislation sponsored by Dr. Mark Green, Tennessee State Senator for District 22, was launched on Veterans Day in 2015, and residents still have opportunities to purchase a specially designed plate.
Plates feature one of seven designations: one for the general public expressing support for service members, and six for those who earned combat action awards as a part of the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy or Marines.
This license plate program will help our state provide critical support to veterans, service members and their loved ones. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Combat Action Specialty License Plates will be equally allocated by the State of Tennessee to Centerstone Military Services and Soldiers and Families Embraced (SAFE). Centerstone and SAFE will use these funds to offer services to service members and their families.
These supportive funds are vital. Estimates show that 75 percent of those who suffer combat trauma do not receive adequate treatment, creating the potential for long-term effects on them and those in their lives. Not least of which, is the potential for suicide. A veteran is 12 times more likely to die by his or her own hand after leaving the military than be killed by an enemy combatant in action. And the stress of military life often, and unsurprisingly, impacts the entire family. Research has found that military spouses and children are more likely to suffer from mental health disorders than civilian families, with the families of deployed soldiers at higher risk than those of non-deployed soldiers.
Reserving a specialty plate is one way Tennesseans can show their support for our nation's veterans and service members every day of the year. One thousand pre-orders are needed before Combat Action Specialty License Plates go into production. To reserve a plate, visit centerstone.org/vetplates.
Col. Kent Crossley is the executive director of Centerstone Military Services, which offers confidential, free or low-cost services to individuals and families facing post-traumatic stress disorder and other invisible wounds of military service.