Today a grateful nation marks Veterans Day. But how grateful are we, truly?
With the craziest presidential election of all time ending earlier this week, it's easy to forgive someone for forgetting that today is Veterans Day.
Sad to say, at least until President-Elect Trump's brief but important mention of vets during his victory speech, our nation's veterans have been mostly forgotten during the election campaign. As National Public Radio reported, of the 28,500 words spoken by the presidential candidates during the debates, veterans were mentioned only twice.
This is amazing. The nation and our leaders owe veterans much more.
Let's look at the figures. The Census Bureau reports that there are 18.6 million American veterans of military service. Since the first Gulf War, 5.6 million Americans have served.
And while most of them are doing just fine, thank you, many are in dire straits. One in five veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, or PTSD.
Although veterans represent only 9 percent of the U. S. population, they account for nearly 20 percent of the nation's suicides. Vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have four times the suicide rate of other veterans.
Homelessness is also an issue. There are nearly 50,000 homeless vets in this country — half of whom are Vietnam vets, although the number of younger homeless vets is on the rise.
Then there's the scandal of the Veterans Administration hospitals — horrendous waiting lists for medical care, officials falsifying data to cover their tracks. It's a further scandal that the Administration and Congress haven't done a whole lot about it. The Washington Post awarded President Obama four Pinocchios for his assurances to military families that "a whole bunch of people" have been fired at the VA as a result of the scandals. The fact is that very few VA officials have been held accountable.
Finally, there's the ongoing mess regarding war-time re-enlistment bonuses given to members of the California National Guard. These men and women used the money for things like education and mortgages — only to find out that a) they might have been given the money fraudulently because their recruiting officers were trying to meet quotas, and b) the government wants the money back. That's a fine thank you to the men and women who placed their lives on the line for their country.
Let's hope the Pentagon and Congress do something about this and the other issues facing veterans.
Actually, this Veterans Day, let's do more than hope. Call or write our new President and our newly elected Congress the moment they take their oath of office. Let them know you want veterans' issues back on the national agenda.
But beyond waiting on our elected officials to address veterans concerns, there are things that we ourselves can do to honor those who have served our country. Here are some suggestions from Military.com.
First, show up. Attend a Veterans Day event in your area. Second, donate. There are many organizations that help veterans. Come to BreakPoint.org and we'll link you to worthy charities. Other suggestions include just getting to know a veteran in your neighborhood and asking about his or her service; visiting or volunteering at a VA hospital; or simply writing a veteran you know offering words of thanks and encouragement. And of course, pray for our veterans and our active duty military personnel.
Yes, our veterans deserve the thanks and support of our government. Let's go to bat for them, and also do what we can do to acknowledge their service on our behalf.