Veterans Day has long been set aside as the time to recognize our military veterans. For almost 100 years, Americans have paused on November 11 to say “thank you” to the men and women in uniform. This year, I’m just not sure that’s good enough. Don’t get me wrong, saying “thank you” is never a bad thing, but sometimes you need more than a few grateful words; sometimes, a group deserves more than a parade and a discount at the local chain restaurant. This Veterans Day, go beyond the thank you and take action to truly improve the lives of the men and women who’ve sacrificed so much.
But Rachel, why can’t I just say thank you? I mean what could veterans possibly need?
That’s a good question! It’s one that many Americans probably have because they are so far removed from the military lifestyle. It’s easy to forget that service members are still deploying, still fighting and still returning home very different people, many of them broken physically, mentally or emotionally.
It’s easy to block out the fact that today approximately 20 military veterans will commit suicide. And then 20 more will do it the next day. And the day after that. And 20 more will continue to do so every.single.day for the rest of the year.
It’s easy to ignore that while you’re scooping up great deals at major retail stores, more than 39,000 veterans are preparing to spend the night on the streets because they are homeless.
It’s easy to remain ignorant about long VA wait times, about important programs losing funding or about the hardships that military veterans and their families face when the uniforms are put away and Americans stop celebrating their work.
I worry that despite all the talk, tweets and posts over the next few days about respecting our military, so few will mention any of that. And that despite all these statistics and fervor for honoring those who fought for us, so few people will continue to talk about fighting for them at home.
But y’all, we must continue fighting for them. Whether it’s donating your time to the VA or giving to an organization the supports veterans (I highly recommend Give an Hour, which focuses on mental health care for veterans and their families) or contacting your senators and representatives to urge them to vote in favor of bills benefiting veterans, I urge you to DO something in honor of Veterans Day. Go beyond the thank you and take action.