On Veterans Day, we should remember and honor the brave men and women who fought (and continue to fight) for our freedoms. However, we should also remember them on the other 364 day of the year. The programs in place to serve those who served our country are woefully inadequate, specifically in the area of health care. Our veterans did their part, now we should do ours. Urge Congress to improve veterans’ programs, support veterans’ organizations, create a hiring plan for veterans if you’re a business owner. Do something for those who have done so much for us.
Today is Veterans Day. One day out of 365 specifically set aside to remember and honor those who serve in the military, often paying the ultimate price – their lives – for our freedoms. We should remember our veterans every day.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gives a brief history of this day of remembrance. An excerpt follows:
World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
So today, we thank those who continue to serve, those who recently left the service and, posthumously, those who died in service to our country. And well we should give thanks. Most of us, myself included, go about our daily business in relative comfort. Often, the most difficult things we face in a given day are work stresses and Facebook/Twitter drama.
We’re free to do so because brave men and women put their lives on the line for that freedom. As the saying goes, “Freedom isn’t free.” How often do we think about the daily challenges faced by our soldiers and veterans? For those on active duty, their daily stresses include being shot at and hoping they can avoid IEDs. That’s a lot worse than the controversy over Starbucks changing the design of their holiday cups (seriously, people, it’s a coffee cup! Get a life!).
What about our veterans? What about the other 364 days of the year?
“There are programs in place!” I hear you reply. True, but do they work? Thousands of our veterans are struggling with mental health issues on a daily basis. The VA medical system is failing them in an appalling manner.
According to CNN correspondent Drew Griffin, “[T]he largest V.A. facility in the nation, this document obtained by CNN shows an August average wait time for new patients in mental health was 43 days. Publicly, the V.A. claims the wait was less than four days.”
Forty-three days, people. That’s a long time to wait when one is experiencing the struggles of PTSD, major depressive disorder and a whole host of other, service-connected, mental health issues. Most of us would be after someone’s head on a platter if we had to wait a week to be seen for a backache. Yet, the men and women who daily risked their lives so we can moan about coffee cup colors are waiting an average of forty-three days.
A PBS piece revealed that, “Almost 60 percent of veterans who were retired from the military in 2012 due to a service-connected disability were under the age of 35.” As of last month, there are 21.1M veterans living in the U.S. and roughly 422,000 of them are unemployed, many due to service-connected disabilities, others due to lack of full-time hob opportunities that match their skill set.
Yes, there are programs aimed at helping our veterans. However, even with new VA Secretary, Robert McDonald, there are still huge problems.
So, when you take a moment today to reflect on our veterans or actually thank them in person, I urge you to also remember them on the other 364 days of the year. Write your Congresspeople, support a veterans’ organization or develop a hiring program for veterans if you’re a business owner.
They took care of us. It’s time we return the favor.
Thank you for your service, U.S. veterans!