This week, the United States formally ended its military mission in Iraq. Since 2003, more than one-million Americans have served our nation there. Nearly 4,500 of our servicemen and women died there, and 32,000 American troops were injured. Many more remain in harm's way, serving in Afghanistan or on other deployments around the globe.
The good news is that thousands of our troops will be home for Christmas this year. And while they look forward to spending the holidays with family and friends, many of these military personnel also face new challenges as they re-integrate into civilian life.
In the past decade, more than 770,000 Guard and Reserve service members have been put on active duty. Their tours have given many of them combat experience and exposed them to a broader spectrum of psychological and neurological issues. As a result, we have seen increases in the rates of divorce, suicide, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, unemployment and homelessness among veterans.
While there are services in Arkansas to help returning veterans, there has not been centralized access to these programs. There was no one-stop shop where service members walk through the door and are sure they will find the assistance they need. I'm happy to report that this is changing.
For two-and-a-half years, the Arkansas Yellow Ribbon Task Force studied the military, veteran and family services provided in our state. It recommended a statewide partnership that brings together military service providers, foundations and state agencies in order to build a greater safety net for those who need help. This has resulted in the creation of the ARVets Program, a nonprofit organization working to coordinate services and make it easier for veterans to access them.
ARVets aims to help veterans navigate available services while also providing programs of its own. These programs include assistance for job training, career development, housing, and behavioral and physical health needs. The group will also work to build community partnerships and educate the public about the impact of deployments on veterans and their families.
Through their Network of Care, ARVets is building a complete database of information about services and resources available to veterans, be they public, private, federal, state or local. This will ensure quick and comprehensive referrals for veterans seeking assistance. For more information about any of these programs or services, go online to arvets.org.
I often tell our troops heading out on deployments to focus on their mission and their safe return, and that we will focus on helping their families back home. Now, as more and more of those service members head home to Arkansas, we must devote that same energy to helping them re-acclimate to challenging circumstances.
Many of our servicemen and women continue to serve far from home. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers this holiday season, and look forward to the day when they return home safely to Arkansas. And when they do, they will find a more coordinated effort ready to provide any and all assistance they require on the home front.