Nov. 11 Veterans Day celebrations were held all across the country. Vets received thanks for their service from young people on college campuses; and we were reminded of the implications of this day. Veterans on average are subjected to marketing on this day of the year—Veterans Day sales, free meals to vets, parades. But for me Veterans Day is a sad observance in the U.S.
In this country we have a habit of compartmentalizing things. Roses will be placed on the tome of the unknown soldier at precisely the right time. Parades will end and cleanup will begin. Free meals for vets are served from four to eight — no substitution will be made. And on November 12, the country will return to business as usual, but for us Vets? We will still be veterans.
Veterans will still carry the scares of service gladly and proudly rendered. They will still hold tight to a camaraderie that marks them as an unusual group of men and women; those that would happily march to the drum of war for strangers.
Forty-four percent of us returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with a physical or mental health problem.
They will also wait in line while VA claims continue to pile up. Veterans are committing suicide as they wait for services at a rate greater than the number of combat loses– former service members represent 20 percent of suicides in the United States, roughly 18 per day.
The VA currently has 900 thousand unprocessed medical claims.
They will count every dollar because they don’t have enough money to feed their families. 170 thousand recently lost access to SNAP they qualified for because they aren’t paid enough to buy food.
They will huddle in a corner of a cold street, homeless and alone. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that over 60 thousand of us are homeless on any given night.
Five thousand veterans have been victims of illegal foreclosure. Over 20 thousand military members have suffered foreclosure two-thirds of them are now listed as homeless or living in poverty.
America celebrates its veterans in very strange ways.
Some people buy a yellow ribbon to put on the back of their cars, but walk past the dirt covered human being at the street corner, his bread full of mange, lice bitten hands holding a sign that reads, “Vet, Please Help.”
We gladly say thank you to vets on the 11th day of the 11th month completely oblivious to what we are really giving thanks too.
A free meal from a restaurant once a year pales in comparison to an empty stomach every other day. A magnetic sticker on the back of your car does nothing to protect the soldier, marine, sailor, airmen or guardsmen whose flake jacket has been wore thin over the years.
Parades in the city square don’t give recognition to the house to house fighting of a war vet.
We remember our veterans every November so we don’t have to remember them any other day of the year– claiming to support our vets with stickers, t-shirts, buttons and hats.
Supporting the Troops means giving blood marked solely for the military, it means volunteering to aid veterans in shelters throughout the US, it means working to influence legislators to provide civilian certification for military service, it means placing food on plates at shelters, it means visiting a VA hospital.
Everyday men and women, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, hold their breath fearing the ringing of their phone because support a vet who is deployed. Children go to school on edge because their parents are off to war—they support the troops. Not because of a sticker or hat, but because of love and respect.
To some people supporting the troops means using the military to spread democracy to others it means bring them home from Afghanistan, yes we are still at war in Afghanistan.
But what if, as a society, we truly supported our troops? What if tomorrow we demanded they be paid enough to feed themselves? What if next week we forced the government to provide for them premium health care? What if next month we gave them all free education everywhere, or worked to create civilian certifications? What if we made mental health care of our vet’s priority one? What if every troop had adequate equipment and gear to accomplish their mission? What if we did all this regardless of the election cycle?
So, please, don’t support the troops on Veterans Day. Don’t support the troops as a PR campaign. Don’t support them because it seems like the thing to do. Don’t support them at all if support means disregarding them for 364 days of the year.
Don’t “support the troops,” truly help them!