On November 11, we honor the veterans who have served our country throughout the years on Veterans Day. It's noble and lovely, and Facebook is full of old photos of grandfathers and fathers in their military uniforms and heartfelt thank-yous to the men and women who serve our country every day. But on November 12, it's over. And that's wrong.
Veterans Day shouldn't be the only day we care about soldiers. The rest of the year, many veterans are going through struggles, both financial and emotional. We, as a country, aren't providing them with enough services to help overcome them.
It's wonderful to thank a veteran for their services, but we need to do it every day, not just one day a year. Here are five reasons to think about a veteran every day, not just on November 11:
- Homeless veterans: Homeless veterans are more likely to die than their non-veteran counterparts. A recent study from the 100,000 Homeless Campaign says those who are homeless after they return from serving are 11 percentage points more likely to develop life-threatening diseases than non-veteran homeless people. The reason isn't clear, but homeless veterans are often older than non-veterans and homeless for longer periods of time. The authors of the study said: "Men and women who risked their lives defending America may be far more likely to die on its streets." This is despicable and wrong and shouldn't even be something we're discussing.
- Disabled veterans: Veterans suffer traumatic brain injuries and other devastating injuries that render them incapable of work sometimes and are greatly in need of proper health care and rehabilitation. There is significant evidence connecting moderate or severe brain injuries to problems such as depression, unemployment, and Parkinson's-disease-like tremors. In 2008, military officials said they had dedicated $300 million recently for research on traumatic brain injury. It's that much of a problem. Their sacrifice for this country can't be overstated and one day a year doesn't sufficiently thank them. So sure, bang the drum on November 11, but sign up to volunteer on March 12 or find out how you can help more on August 6.
- Mental illness: Many veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which, left untreated can lead to domestic violence, erratic behavior, inability to hold a job, depression, and even suicide. It isn't something to be taken lightly or ignored. Service to one's country is only the beginning and combat can have lifetime effects that have to be addressed and not just peripherally. Every man or woman who serves our country should have a good life after returning.
- Poor health care: The idea that a veteran should ever struggle to pay insurance premiums or have any problem getting health care is unconscionable in a society as rich as ours. It's inexcusable. And yet, many doctors don't accept the insurance the military provides to veterans. The harder it is to find a doctor, the less likely a veteran is to go to one. How is this even remotely acceptable? A better word for it: despicable. There should be no question that veterans get the best insurance and access to any doctor without having to pay out of network fees and premiums.
- Unemployment: The jobless rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is in the double-digits, which is much higher than the national unemployment rate, which is 9 percent. President Obama's new job bill will help to combat some of that, but the problem is much larger than just unemployment. The underlying reasons for the unemployment also need to be addressed before the problem can be truly fixed.
Veterans need money and effort to provide them with safe and stable housing, balanced meals, health care, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, personal development, and job training and placement. This isn't something we can limit to one day a year, but is a drive that needs to be present all year long, every day.
How will you help veterans going forward?
Image via purpleslog/Flickr