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Tag: Veterans Day

On a background of the US flag are the symbols of the five branches of US military service and the words "Veterans Day: Remembering all who served."

Service comes at a price

All of our current service members have chosen to be there, standing between us and our foes. Increasing numbers of veterans volunteered for their tours of duty. They signed up to protect and defend their country and the Constitution. I believe their choices deserve our honor and deepest respect. Because their service comes at a price.

On the backdrop of a US flag, we have symbols for all five branches of the service, Marines, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force, and the words "Veterans Day, Remembering all who served."

We still have a lot of Boomer veterans, and significant numbers who served in the Korean War, or (like my 95-year-old father) in World War II. But the USA has had an all-volunteer force since early 1973.

I remember hearing the news that the draft had been ended. I felt relieved, after years of seeing my male classmates and friends conscripted for the Vietnam War. Though early results were worrisome, most observers now agree our professional armed forces are more effective than when we relied on draftees in earlier times.

Enduring challenges of military service

Military service comes at a price. It changes a person. It usually begins when the person is coming of age. This makes it a powerful lens through which the person views the rest of his or her life

Long-term studies identify both negative and positive outcomes. There are many positive outcomes, such as higher levels of fitness, organizational skills, teamwork competence, and more.

But service in time of war is dangerous and difficultIn some cases it inflicts crippling trauma or enduring health issues. And we’ve had continual war for long enough in recent years that some serving now in Afghanistan or elsewhere weren’t even born yet on that infamous 9/11.

Among the worst outcomes are higher suicide rates among veterans than the general population and a persistent pattern of homeless veterans.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that “homeless” and “veteran” are two words that should never go together, and that losing 17 veterans to suicide each day while the VA underspends by millions of its budget for helping them is unconscionable.

A dark background and a black-and-white photo of a homeless veteran combine to make the point, along with an anonymous quote: "I was prepared to serve, I was prepared to be wounded, I was prepared to die. However: When I came home, I was not prepared to be forgotten."

Acknowledging that service comes at a price

By now most of us have learned that the popular phrase “Thank you for your service” can come across as hopelessly glib and thoughtless to some veterans. 

For a significant number it’s on the same order as the phrase “thoughts and prayers,” when offered as a cheap substitute for action.

How do we move beyond “thank you for your service” (however well-meant or deeply felt)? Can we express our gratitude in more practical ways? Dr. Michael B. Brennan of Psychology Today, who is himself a veteran, offers three suggestions.

Dr. Brennan’s three suggestions

First, go ahead and say “Thank you.” Many veterans still appreciate it, as does Dr. Brennan. On Veterans Day a few years ago, I posted a list similar to his, entitled “Three creative ways to thank a veteran.” I continue to stand by what I said there.

Second, get involved locally with initiatives designed to help and support veterans. Advocate. Interact with veterans at local VFW or American Legion posts. Or work with other credible local nonprofits. 

Here in Kansas City we have the nationally-recognized Veterans Community Project. But everywhere has (or should have!) something. And there’s nothing that says you really do care, better than face-to-face interaction

Because I believe in the organization, and because this video offers insights we can transfer to other contexts, here’s a little more on the Veterans Community Project:

Third, Brennan suggests that you educate yourself. Take time to develop “Cultural competence.” When you understand more about veterans’ issues, it shows when you interact with them. You’re also better able to advocate for improvements when you know more. 

That’s important. Advocacy matters! For veterans, it matters because service comes at a price. But sometimes politicians and others don’t want to remember that, or help pay for it.

What does your community do to support veterans? Are you involved in advocacy? Local volunteer action? Please share in the comments, if you’re willing.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to the City of Coronado, CA, for the Veterans Day graphic, to the HeartMath Institute (via @Sharon4Veterans on Twitter and Pinterest) for the “Not prepared to be forgotten” image, and to The Veterans Community Project and Kansas City’s Atlas Roofing, for the video describing the Veterans Community Project, who runs it, and why their tiny homes for homeless veterans are built the way they are.

100 years since the War to End all Wars

Unfortunately, it didn’t end all wars. It barely paused them, as we know too well today. But let us stop for a moment today to consider all of those who have died to defend our freedoms, and all the decisions–both foolish and wise–that have been taken in regard to war and its waging, since that day.

I live in the metro area that’s home to the National World War I Museum and Memorial (they don’t all have to be in Washington, DC!), where they’ve been rolling out a massive retrospective and display after display as the 100-year anniversaries of various battles and other events from that war unfold. Now we’ve come to the centennial of the end of that war. Yes, it’s a big deal.

The National World War I Museum and Memorial’s celebration of the centennial of the Armistice currently includes a projection of several images, including the striking poppies, on the Memorial obelisk at night.

One hundred years ago today . . . what was it like? Here’s a gallery of images from that day.

The signing ceremony that sealed the Armistice: Image by Maurice Pillard Verneuil – Maurice Pillard Verneuil, Kamu Malı,
American soldiers in the field (64th Regiment of the 7th Division) celebrate news of the Armistice. This photo is from the U.S. Army – U.S. National Archive, Public Domain.
Celebrants riding a bus in London, while waving arms and flags.
Jubilant women show their delight in Sydney, Australia on Armistice Day.
People turned out in a somewhat impromptu but clearly delighted crowd in Vincennes, France once they heard the news.
Americans back home also turned out in force to march, wave flags, and generally spread their joy.

There are many more such photos to be seen and enjoyed online. I particularly appreciated Mashable’s collection (which includes some of the images I chose, but has a lot more, too).

It may seem simple-minded to say this, but war is bad. It’s terrible for the fighters, the civilians caught in the middle, and the environment, too. Unfortunately, it also can be good for some types of industries, companies, leaders, and governments, so we can never allow our vigilance to wane.

It’s especially hard to remember how awful war is, when you’ve been at peace for a while. I hope you’ll look back, enjoy these photos from a different time, and pay particular attention to the joy and intense relief in the people’s facesEnding this war was good for all of them, because war is humankind’s worst invention, and they’d just had a long, ugly taste of it.

Celebrate, yes. Thank a veteran, certainly! But then get involved in efforts to keep the local, national, and international focus on working for peace.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Minnesota Mom’s blog, via Pinterest, for the illustrated quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, and to The National and the AP, via Pinterest, for the photo of the poppy projections at the National World War I Museum and Memorial. For the vintage images in the Armistice Gallery, I’d like to thank Wikimedia for the Maurice Pillard Verneuil image of the signing of the Armistice; Wikimedia again, along with the US Army and the US National Archive, for the photo of the celebrating 64th; to Great War London for the celebration-on-the-bus photo from London; to Anzac Portal’s “Australians on the Western Front” image gallery for the photo of the delighted women in Sydney; to the FranceArchives page, “Proclamation de l’armistice de 1918” for the photo of the happy crowd in Vincennes, France; and to Mashable, via the Hulton Archive/Getty Images, for the photo of the parade in the US. And happy Veterans Day to all.

Respect

How do you celebrate Veterans Day? How should we? I think that varies with the individual or family, whether one is or is not a veteran, and sometimes which war hits closest to home for us.

A Veterans Day parade in Milwaukee, WI, complete with banners, flags and uniforms.

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with a good parade, honor ceremony, or display of the flag. In many places you can buy a remembrance poppy, evoking memories of World War I, and a tradition in English-speaking countries since the 1920s.

I sometimes feel that the trappings of patriotism–the outward signs, such as a flag pin on a lapel or a patriotic meme on a Facebook wall–get more focus than actual, substantive ways to support veterans and their families.

Last year I posted some thoughts on how to thank veterans that might be worth another look, if you’re so inclined. But it seems to me that we as a nation need to think long and hard about how we treat our active-duty military personnel and our veterans. It’s easy to wave a flag and say “Thank you,” and I’m sure many feel good to be publicly appreciated–but is that the supportiveness they truly need?

If we, as citizens and taxpayers think veterans should be better-served than they currently are, we first should educate ourselves about where the needs truly lie–then get active on a local, state, and national level. To me, that’s the best form of patriotism: the hands-on, trying-to-make-it-better kind. P.S. Did you vote for better government last Tuesday?

If we’re paying enlisted personnel a living wage, why do so many of them end up as prey to the predatory payday lenders whose businesses cluster near military bases?

Back in 2011, I wrote about dilapidated schools on military basesMany were still struggling to improve their facilities as recently as 2015, though academic scores were rising.

If we’re so grateful as a nation to our veterans, why don’t more employers make a point of hiring them

Why are there so many homeless veterans? Also, what can ordinary citizens do to help them? Why are social and mental-health services spread so thin that veterans too often fall through the gaps?

Why do so many veterans commit suicide? How can we stem this trend?

Looks elegant–but are we making it REAL? That’s an open question, I fear.

It seems clear to me that we still have many serious “system upgrades” to put in place, before any “thank you for your service” we say won’t be at risk of seeming kind of hollow, to all too many of our returned warriors.

No matter how sincerely we mean it.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Honor Our Military (based in Milwaukee, WI) for the photo from their 2014 Veterans Day Parade; to the Remembrance Day Pinterest page and Pin for the poppy-themed thought (photo sourced from Hubpages); and to Ultimate Medical Academy via Pinterest for the quote image about real heroes. Thanks are also due to Diply via Pinterest for the Mark Twain quote about patriotismFinally, I am grateful to the National Veterans Foundation for the “dog tags” Thank You image.

3 creative ways to thank a veteran

Artdog Images of Interest, “with interest”

Last Tuesday, I, and many of my fellow Americans voted. Whether you like the outcome or not, the fact that we have the right to vote is largely because that right has been defended again and again through the years, most especially by the men and women of the United States Armed Services. In honor of them on Veterans Day, I’ve prepared a little photo tribute.

In between the pictures, I suggest three categories of practical ways that you can thank a vet or active service member–and do it in a way that makes a REAL difference. Have you thanked a vet today?

1. Say thank-you with a card, letter, or gift. If you have a deployed military service member in your circle of friends or family, here are some tips from Operation We are Here, on writing to them. Another good source of ideas for writing to either active-duty or hospitalized veterans is the National Remember Our Troops Campaign (NROTC). Or get involved in service projects such as knitting or crocheting cold-weather comforts for active-duty personnel or helping to fill care packages. There are countless opportunities, from local, grassroots efforts to national organizations. All it takes is a willing heart.

2. Prepare yourself ahead of time so you’ll have a better idea how to talk with military family members. Active-duty service members’ parents, spouses, and children all face unique challenges and encounter all too many unhelpful or ignorant reactions from people who have no idea what they’re dealing with. Even more so do the families of injured veterans and  the families of the fallenDon’t add to their struggle–educate yourself! 

3. Since today is Veterans Day, buy a Buddy Poppy. Buy a bunch of them! The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) uses the proceeds to help disabled, needy and/or homeless veterans all year. There are many other organizations created to help, too. Go to Charlity Navigator to find the best services for injured or disabled veterans. There also are many ways to help homeless veterans. Find  programs to help at-risk veterans through the VA, too.

It’s one thing to express gratitude on a holiday such as this one–but it’s something better and more to “be there” for the veterans who put themselves on the line for us. Let’s be there for real.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Aaron Huss’s “Places to Visit” Pinterest Page for the Veteran’s Day graphic at the top. Thanks very much to KaytiDesigns and PrintFirm via Pinterest, for the “Thank You” montage with the flag and the soldiers, and to the Republican Party of Kentucky for the Thank You photo of the assembled soldiers in the red auditorium. Thank you, Mulpix on Instagram, for the “Thank You” with the emblems of the service branches. And finally, thank you for the Veterans Day poppies with Ronald Reagan quote, from the “Through the Garden Gate” blog. And a heartfelt THANK YOU also to all the brave and amazing people (and their families) who keep this nation safe and free.

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