Here in the United States of America, we have what is known as “Citizen Soldiers.” Our citizen soldiers are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. They are from all walks of life and they all have sacrificed something so that we can enjoy the freedoms we enjoy.
Because of their sacrifices, we should all endeavor to serve our veterans as well as they have served their nation. Sometimes all that is needed is a simple thank you directed at the veteran or the family member for his or her sacrifice. Sometimes there is much more that is needed to honor our veterans and their families.
It starts with compassion. Many of our veterans are unemployed or underemployed. A large portion of the homeless are veterans. It is tragic that the men and women who allow us to be safe in our homes are often without homes themselves when they shed their uniforms. Many of our veterans suffer from PTSD and other mental dysfunctions. The veteran’s hospitals are filled with disabled veterans that were wounded or suffer from illnesses. Our compassion should compel us to make sure that services to our veterans are fully funded.
We must not forget the unique needs of women veterans. There are more than 1.2 million women in American today who have served in our military. Women are major contributors to our military presence in Afghanistan and many have given their lives in the Global War on Terrorism. Our female veterans have special needs, adequate breast and cervical cancer treatments have to be provided. Their special needs include providing help and support for traumas resulting from domestic violence, sexual harassment and assaults.
While fewer than 10 percent of Americans can claim the honorable title “U.S. military veteran,” this special group often provides the vital services that enable our communities to function.
Chances are that if you surveyed your local police or fire department, you would find that a disproportionately high amount of its members are veterans. When an emergency hits, there is a good chance that it is a veteran that is first to respond.
Whether it’s a school teacher, construction worker or first responder, military veterans take their missions seriously.
In 1798, George Washington said, “ The willingness with which our young people will fight in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country.”
Born of their extraordinary accomplishments comes our extraordinary debt. And for those accomplishments and for their dedication, we must always be grateful.
God bless our veterans and God bless America.
Mark Overstreet is a Naval Veteran and member of the American Legion.