In this, the first week of 2018, one of our resolutions as a society should be creating a welcome environment for the men and women who served in our military.
A vital first step: Making sure their homes don't present barriers to daily living: sinks too high to reach, hallways that can't be navigated in a wheelchair, bathtubs lacking grab bars and non-slip surfaces.
As Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) puts it, "No one who served in this country should live in a home that makes everyday tasks a struggle."
Now state lawmakers have lined up behind a bill Singleton and several colleagues sponsored, launching a five-year pilot program to issue grants to help disabled and low-income veterans with housing modifications and rehabilitation.
The New Jersey Housing Assistance for Veterans Act appropriates $5 million for the program.
One out of every 10 veterans alive today was seriously injured while serving in the military, according to statistics compiled earlier this decade by the Pew Research Center.
As of 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that there were 3.8 million veterans with a service-connected disability living in the country. The agency defines such a disability as one that was a result of a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during military service.
For these men and women, who put their lives on the line while serving in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, the importance ramps or grab bars in their homes to make those lives easier should be self-evident.
The home modifications needn't be extensive, or prohibitively costly. They can include storage facilities within reach of a vet with limited ability to raise his or her arms, or bend down to the floor. Shower and bathroom faucets accessible to someone using a wheelchair. A roll-in shower. At least one outside entrance without steps.
"Anything the state of New Jersey can do to make veterans' lives easier is a worthy endeavor," says Assemblyman Joseph Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset), himself a former Army reservist and one of the sponsors of the bill.
Once the proposed measure is signed into law, preference for grants will go to organizations employing workers who participate in the Helmets to Hardhats Program, which links military service members with training and job opportunities in the construction trades.
Grant recipients would be required to contribute a 50 percent match, either through cash or through in-kind contributions.
It's all too glib to mouth the phrase "Welcome home, soldier ... or sailor or airman. Thanks for your service." But accompanying these words with a safe and secure environment - that's a "Welcome home" that really means something.