As Father's Day approaches, dads across America will be honored by their families for the special roles they play in their families' lives.
But an overlooked group of fathers aren't showered with holiday cards, home-cooked meals or even the obligatory tie or bottle of cologne that so many dads receive as Father's Day gifts. In fact, these men won't get a chance to hug their families on Father's Day: They are fathers in the military; namely, the soldiers deployed overseas who are away on this special day.
Not only are these men making extraordinary personal sacrifices -- literally putting their lives on the line in the name of honor, duty and country -- they are making monumental financial sacrifices as well.Their absence often leaves huge financial challenges for the wives and children awaiting their return. And in some cases, there's no wife waiting back home for the military dad.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are some 1.8 million single dads in the U.S. And single dads serve their country, just like married ones, even as they remain the head of their families. In fact, roughly 7.8% of military members are single parents. These single-parent military personnel are required by law to go to great lengths to create a "family care plan" - just in case they're called into duty or deployed with little to no-notice.
But while Americans overwhelmingly respect members of the military, the truth is that servicemen (and servicewomen) are often disrespected financially. Whether it's banks improperly foreclosing on soldiers' homes or Delta Airlines charging ridiculous "extra baggage fees" of $2,800 to transport the military gear and luggage of troops returning home from overseas duty, our soldiers must often feel like Rodney Dangerfield: "I get no respect."
And it's not just Corporate America that shows financial disrespect to military dads and service personnel in general. The U.S. government asks military members to perform one of the hardest jobs in the world, yet the pay for the average soldier is appalling low.
Additionally, the homeless problem in America is very much linked to our nation's veterans. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans says that on any given night, about 107,000 veterans are homeless in the U.S. Frankly, that's a national disgrace.
But low pay and homelessness are just the tip of the iceberg. Members of the military – both active duty and veterans – face a growing list of financial problems, ranging from aggressive payday lenders to a lack of economic support for re-entry programs when they return from serving their country.
So this Father's Day, it's worth pausing to remember fathers near and far, especially those military dads in far-flung countries, who are fighting to keep us all safe and protect America's political and economic interests. If you know a military dad, take a moment to say an extra special "thank you" to him -- even if you have to do it via email or Skype. Because he's not just willing to sacrifice his life and liberty for the good old U.S.A. He's making a big financial sacrifice for you and I, too.
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