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9/11: US troops today feel more appreciated, but still poorly understood

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Another 40 percent said that their community “did not embrace opportunities to help military children.” 

The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks offers an opportunity for Americans to reach out to military service members, and that is very much appreciated, says Vivian Greentree, the director of research and policy at Blue Star Families. But the message doesn't always get through to those who need it, she adds. 

“It’s important to be reflective, but it’s even more important to take action,” she says. 

For example, Rebekah Sanderlin, whose Army husband is stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C., recalls going to a concert in Nashville, Tenn., with her mom last year. The stadiumgoers got on their feet to cheer the troops. “I just started crying, and my mom couldn’t understand why. She said, ‘They do this all the time.’ ”

The problem was, Ms. Sanderlin didn’t know that. Few troops actually go to events like this, says Sanderlin, who writes the blog “Operation Marriage,” about her experience as a military mother and spouse.

“I think there’s this idea in the civilian world that ‘We’re showing all this support – we do this all the time,’ ” she says. “But places where the big military bases are – like Fayetteville – these are small towns without big events. And most military families cannot afford to go to these big events.” 

And even for those who can, the daily business of caring for children while one spouse is at war means “anything outside of daily survival” often becomes “too much of a hassle.” 

She points, too, to another gesture troops appreciate, but which is also a secret pet peeve among soldiers, who quietly joke about it: care packages often hopelessly out of date.

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