Veterans deserve more than gratitude

Too many are homeless, jobless

By The Mercury

Veterans Day is, of course, Nov. 11. That’s Sunday, which gives those of us who attend church services an ideal opportunity to pray with others for U.S. veterans and all military personnel.

Veterans Day also is Monday, at least for the federal government. It’s a federal holiday, which in many places will include speeches, parades and the like in honor of veterans. We hope folks who don’t avail themselves of those activities will at least pause in remembrance and gratitude for the sacrifices that U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have performed on our behalf.

Finally, and most immediately, on Friday — tomorrow — Manhattan residents, military personnel and school children will commemorate Veterans Day. Highlights include breakfast at 7 a.m. at the VFW Post, the parade, which will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Manhattan Town Center and proceed up Poyntz Avenue to City Park, a ceremony at 11 a.m. at City Auditorium and a recognition honors banquet slated for 6 p.m. at the American Legion Hall.

Such recognition is appropriate, not just because ours is a military community but because our country would not exist — certainly not in its present form — without the contributions of generations of Americans who answered their nation’s call to duty. Though we encourage civilians to thank veterans for their service, that cannot be enough.

Just as our country couldn’t prosper without the sacrifices veterans have made, many veterans need the support and assistance of civilian America. For example, as Dave Redmon, a Navy veteran, pointed out in a letter to the editor Wednesday, 18 veterans commit suicide every day. That’s not his number; it comes from the Department of Veterans Affairs. If 18 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat in one day — never mind every single day — it would be major news. Yet the loss of 18 separate deaths by suicide, though no less tragic, gets little attention.

Also, as many as one-third of America’s homeless population consists of veterans, including many who performed heroically in battle. And if that isn’t enough, consider that unemployment among veterans continues to run about twice the national average.

One in three veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or combinations of both as a result of combat trauma. They need help but often are loathe to ask for it. And often when they have sought help, veterans have become struck in a bureaucratic morass, though that problem is finally being addressed.

Yes, our veterans deserve our gratitude, our respect. They also deserve the commitment of their countrymen to the physical and mental well-being of veterans who are continuing with unseen battles of their own far removed from the combat zone.

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