We form a social contract when we send our men and women to war: in return for their faithful service to the nation at great risk to themselves, we are supposed to assist them when they come home.
Somehow, this has been lost with this generation of vets. They’re taking care of us, but we’re not taking care of them. Congress keeps moving to slash budgets for veterans’ programs, vets have had to fight to get PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury taken seriously by military authorities, the military is now losing more troops to suicide than enemy fire, and for-profit schools are preying on vets to trade their New GI Bill benefits for worthless non-accredited degrees. Some even face hiring prejudice because of worries about how combat has affected their ability to work (newsflash: it hasn’t). Worse still, the VA-despite being run by distinguished former Army General Eric Shinseki-is completely overwhelmed at best and ineffective at worst. On this Veterans Day, consider a donation that would serve our veterans as well as they’ve served us: “What day is Veterans Day?” It was a simple question my daughter asked me a few weeks ago. I was startled, then a little horrified. Do they not they teach this in school anymore? I wondered how anyone could not know when America officially honors military Veterans. When I was growing up, and even now, every day is Veterans Day.
My grandfather was a veteran of Korea. He never talked about his military service but it was the phantom of my childhood. He had an explosive temper and terrible nightmares.. He never held a job for more than a year or two, if at all, and looking back now, I realize he must have suffered terribly.
My brother will soon be deployed to Korea. His fifth deployment. His first was hunting for Hussein. But he loves America, his kids and happy hours at the VFW. He hated hippies, foreign cars and people who belittled the armed forces. Red, white and blue were his favorite colors. He carried his service around in his heart, his mind and in the metal shrapnel scattered in his body. For him, every day is Veterans Day, because he lives his time at war in some way every day.
I am like most Americans. I have never fought in a war, never smelled fear and ammunition in combat, never worried about being blown up by a roadside bomb. If I could I would right there by a fellow soldier but because bipolar and Parikinson’s prevents me I am unable to do so. We need to remember those who fought for our country while we stayed safe, out of the crossfire.
The Veterans Administration says there are 23 million living U.S. Veterans. They could be your co-workers, neighbors and friends. Even if you don’t know anyone who has served in the armed forces, there are some small things you can do to let them know you appreciate their service.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America – Provides support, resources, and legislative lobbying for the New Greatest Generation. The IAVA is an exemplary organization that does everything from hosting job fairs to getting veterans suits for interviews.
The Wounded Warrior Project – Seeks to create a generation of healthy, well-adjusted veterans by assisting them to recover in mind and body, as well as empowering veterans to help each other.
Homes for Our Troops – Builds accessible homes for veterans who have experienced life-changing injuries. This can also include modifying existing homes. All this is done at no cost to the veteran.
Warrior Writers – Is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that creates a space where veterans can share their experiences through writing, provide a community based on artistic expression, and bear witness to the lived experiences of warriors.
Call of Duty Endowment – If you’re interested in supporting a video games-linked charity, the Call of Duty Endowment helps veterans find a clear path to employment after their return to civilian life.
The American Widow Project – In addition to the veterans, we must remember the families left behind. AWP provides support for the new generation of military widows by creating a peer-to-peer network where women can share their stories and help each other heal.
And, of course, in a day that celebrates service we cannot forget that our emergency responders and National Guard are saving lives as we speak in Staten Island and Rockaway, which are still powerless from Hurricane Sandy. The American Red Cross has missions in the area bringing people food and water who are unable to leave their apartments. In addition, Doctors Without Borders has dispatched a mission-their first ever to the United States-and they could really use our help.
Today is Veteran’s Day. I’ve spent other blogs discussing how our freedoms aren’t free; they came at a price. Today is our chance to remember those who sacrificed, fought, and died to make sure that our liberties are protected. We should always remember to be thankful to those who have served and to those who are currently serving. Yes, we would all prefer peace. The fact is, however, that sometimes if something is worth having, it’s worth fighting for, and that’s what our Founding Fathers decided in 1776 when they, and many others living in the American colonies under the rule of Great Britain, decided that taxation without representation, among other things, was an issue that was important enough to fight for. The colonists didn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that a revolutionary war was the answer. They did try, multiple times, to resolve things with Great Britain. When those attempts failed, a revolution was the only option left. War should never be the first option, but there are times when it becomes the last option and it must be exercised. The next time you’re complaining about how awful things are here in America, just remember that had our Founding Fathers not revolted, we could still be a British colony. Now wouldn’t that be fun? Yeah, I don’t think so either. It took a while but eventually all citizens of the United States enjoyed the same basic rights, all of those outlined in the Constitution. Not every country’s citizens enjoy such rights. We are fortunate. Regardless of how much trouble many think our country is in right now, it is still the best country in the world in which to live. No place is perfect, but I’m proud to call the United States of America my home. Today, on Veteran’s Day, be sure to remember and to thank those who have sacrificed, those who continue to sacrifice, and their families who also sacrifice so much so we can enjoy our lives here in America.