Today marks the federal observance of the nation’s veterans. It’s the day each year when across the nation somber reflection and celebrations are held to remember the sacrifices made by armed forces veterans in their service to this country.
There will be parades, marches and quiet ceremonies in which wreaths will be placed at the graves of fallen heroes. Some say the best way to honour veterans is to do everything within our power to ensure that more war veterans are not created; keep the nation out of wars, they say. That’s true. And, thankfully, we’re heading in the right direction because by Veterans Day 2014 the United States is expected to end its longest running war; nearly all of the nation’s troops will have been withdrawn from Afghanistan by this time next year.
In the meantime, there are other pressing needs faced by those who have served our country, perhaps the most shameful of which are inadequate mental healthcare services and the prospect of poverty after having put their lives at risk. Currently, three-quarters of a million veterans are caught up in the Veterans Administration backlog as they await word that they will receive federal assistance. While the backlog is improving, it’s small comfort to those in need of assistance, especially when they know they’re caught in the middle of both bureaucratic inefficiency and political gamesmanship. This latter is clearly evidenced by last year’s action of senate Republicans who blocked a veterans jobs bill, and further during the more recent slashing of SNAP/food stamps which are used by 47 million hungry Americans, nearly 1 million of whom are veterans. This is in addition to staggering levels of homelessness — especially among female veterans — and unemployment rates which are significantly higher than that of the civilian population.
Clearly, we are not doing all we can to ensure that veterans are afforded every opportunity to thrive when they return home. All of the above should come to mind when we say “Support the Troops.”