Those Who Serve

On Veteran’s Day this space generally carries a post about honoring our veterans at the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”.

Today we are doing something different, I wanted to share part of a story I read in Hampton Roads last year on Veteran’s Day. It so troubled me I saved it for a year.  The story ran in the Virginian-Pilot, serving an area with enormous military presence.

“Across the country, nine of every 100 citizens – 25 million people – have served.

Below, troops in Afghanistan mark the day with prayer.

Photo by Omar Sobhani/Reuters

Back to the story from last year, titled “The 11th Hour of the 11th Day“:

Those men and women have spent months in the bowels of ships, or covered in desert sand, in grueling training or attending to mundane duties, away from families, sometimes facing death, so the rest of us didn’t have to.”

Evan Vucci/AP Photo

More from the article:

Today, America honors them.  Today – though it should happen every day – we thank them for their time and their sacrifice to keep us safe and our country strong.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Above, ceremonies today at the World War II Memorial in Washington, below, more from the 2010 story.

In a perfect world, we would make sure veterans never had to endure those hardships again. We would ensure that all who were discharged honorably got a college education if they wanted one. We would hire them, lend them money to buy a home, treat their medical problems. We would take care of them when they were too old or sick to take care of themselves.

From a USA Today story in 2008, the stats are still fairly accurate.

USA Today

Last week in Denver it was time for the VA’s annual Stand Down event; organizers expected 500 homeless veterans.

John Moore/Getty Images

Clothing was available, as were medical and dental services.

John Moore/Getty Images

The reality is we don’t treat our veterans so well. Thousands have no money for housing or transportation, no access to medical or mental health treatment and inadequate means of finding out what’s available.

The VA has new initiatives aimed at ameliorating some of the problems our veterans face.

Department of Veterans Affairs

More from the Virginian-Pilot’s story:

As many as 20 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have suffered brain trauma, spinal injuries or amputations. Veterans hospitals get a new patient every 5 minutes – about 9,000 per month. There aren’t enough beds, rehabilitation centers or nursing homes to provide care or teach vets how to live with their injuries.

There are other services available from the VA, but it isn’t enough. Not yet.

Department of Veterans Affairs

The story wraps up this way:

In the name of national security, they gave years, lost limbs, sacrificed their health or their ability to work. It’s the duty of those of us who didn’t to take care of them.

Molly Riley/Reuters

This is not a political blog, we don’t write about elections and political parties, and have no intention of starting.  But a link to this story remains in a sidebar window on my desktop so I can occasionally remind myself the day isn’t always about rousing anthems and touching photographs and flags waving in the breeze. It’s about what I do between now and next November 11th.

The music and memories will be here. Even when they hurt (and it does hurt sometimes), they are readily located, pulled out, dusted off, sometimes wept over. It is the other part of the challenge that remains daunting – what am I doing for those still with us? For their families? Their children? That’s where I sometimes need to be nudged. That’s why the story will stay in my sidebar for at least another year.

Andrew Kelly/Reuters

If looking for our more traditional post, click here.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Those Who Serve

  1. Beautiful and touching and true ..

    and heartbreaking.

    Here in Los Angeles, there are too many vets in wheelchairs in sorry parts of town, damaged, hurt, ignored.

    And to the Congressman who stood up to say Vets should have no preference over other “real” Americans, go listen to Eminem for the day.

    Thanking is not enough. We carry the sorrow with us and there needs to be safe care taking places.

  2. Amy

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. thanks for sharing. i was on the board of a very small, hands-on homeless shelter for nine years. so many of our guys were vets. it’s shameful.

  4. As always thank you for your thoughtful post

  5. Our Military needs more financial support…their families struggle financially and how do you put a price on the worries of their loved ones. They put their lives on the line for us and they deserve more benefits and recognition. Thank you for the post.

  6. What a lovely blog tribute. It really is so important to remember.
    xoxo
    SC

  7. Jen

    That was truly lovely. Thank you for sharing. So few are keeping so many free. It’s so easy to forget that when you are not directly connected to someone serving. This reminds me that I need to do something to contribute. Just thinking about it is not enough.

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