A debt we can’t repay

With today  being Veterans Day, some area schools were closed for the day. Students and perhaps teachers as well were celebrating a day from school. To some it is nothing more than that – a day away from school.
It is that kind of attitude which has permeated our society and cheapened the sacrifices made by those who have served our country to preserve our freedoms. Veterans are to be commended, thanked for their service and shown respect. It doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with the latest government politics or the wars which have been fought.
These men and women sacrificed much to be in the service of their country. Something they voluntarily and selflessly decided they wanted to do.
Yes, they are human. Yes, they make mistakes but not everyone serves their country. Their service was an honorable pursuit — freedom and security.
We have regulated our veterans to second class citizens, even lower than those who come into the country illegally and our country, the very country they served, has all but turned its back on them.
We celebrate parenthood, we celebrate gay pride, we celebrate marriage and other milestones but we don’t boldly and purposefully celebrate our veterans in the same way. This is a travesty.
Most of us have been shielded from how bad things really are in foreign countries and our country is protected because of our veterans. We owe them a debt of gratitude. It is a debt we cannot repay.
Veterans Day is a day to honor those men and women who answered the call to defend our country. Our country’s greatness and strength has come from the fact that their service is woven into the fabric of our history.
Last time I checked, more than 26 million veterans are living in our country. One million of those have been wounded and many receive treatment for injuries on the battlefield and post traumatic stress disorder.
Since 1776, almost two million men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice in combat. Whether they served in times of peace or war, veterans share a common bond — the belief in our freedom.
Statistics show that one in six post 9/11 veterans has a substance abuse problem. In fact, prescription drug abuse for U.S. military personnel doubled between 2002 and 2005 and then almost tripled the next three years.
Sadly, one-third of America’s homeless people are veterans. On any given night in America, 67,000 veterans are on the streets, the majority suffering from substance abuse, mental illness or related disorders.
Veterans sometimes struggle with readjusting back into civilian life and we have been slack in trying to help them over that adjustment.
Estimates are that more than 2.4 million veterans from the Irag and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD or major depression. Only half of those even seek treatment. Some resort to drugs and alcohol which can lead them to be askew with the law. According to U. S. Department of Justice estimates, there are more than 700,000 veterans in the criminal justice system. And 22 veterans commit suicide every day in our country.
It is only in the past couple of years, we have learned how the Veterans Administration (VA) has failed in its duty. As a nation, if we truly value our veterans, we should cry foul and insist that veterans be given the care they deserve, whether in veterans’ or civilian facilities.
We may see veterans in our communities every day and not even know it. They may live next door, across the street and you may see them at the grocery store, church, your child’s school. They never expect recognition for all they have done but they sure do deserve it.
Last week two men came in to place an ad in the newspaper. They were dressed in casual clothes. During the conversation, it came up that the older man had served in the Air Force for many years. I thanked him for his service. Had we not engaged in conversation I may never have known he was a veteran. I saw him stand a little straighter when I thanked him.
I come from a long line of veterans. My father, several of his brothers, three of our sons and my husband, all served their country and were proud to do so, and none of them ever expected thanks. But because of their service, I still live in the land of the free. I am not sure how much longer that will continue with the way things are these days.
We should teach our young people about the service of our veterans and that we owe them much, especially the respect they deserve.
While many veterans have lost many things with injuries and age, nothing ever takes away that sense of pride for our country; a sense of honor and the knowledge they helped keep our country strong and free.
Not just on this Veterans Day — but every day — find a way to say thank you to every veteran and service member who you happen to run across. Better yet, offer to buy them a cup of coffee or lunch. Shake their hand. Do something.©2015
VICTORIA SIMMONS is an author, columnist, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: vsimmons54@gmail.com

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About vsimmons54

Veteran journalist of 40 years. Editor, Motivational Speaker, Ordained Minister, CEO of A Light in the Darkness Ministries, Lensclusive Photography, Babbling Brook Consulting and Design, event planner and author. I love to write and speak and I love Jesus. I also do copy writing and editing. Recently co-authored Vanished Towns Revisited.
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