Veterans deserve our support every day
This week, The Pamplin Media Group will again be sharing stories about our local veterans, through a special section inserted into this newspaper. The American Legion is one of many groups who work tirelessly on behalf of veterans. As part of this week's tribute to the many men and women of Oregon who served their country, we're publishing an excerpt from the American Legion's statement about Veterans Day.
Most Americans profess to truly love our veterans, especially at gatherings on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
And while their feelings are usually sincere, it is important to remember that veterans are defending us 365 days a year. The heroism that has been demonstrated time and again by veterans from the American Revolution to the Global War on Terrorism is sometimes unnoticed by those of us who enjoy the security that their sacrifice has provided.
Our debt to these heroes can never be re-paid but our gratitude and respect must last forever.
For many veterans, our nation was important enough to endure long separations from their families, miss the births of their children, freeze in sub-zero temperatures, bake in wild jungles, lose limbs and, far too often, lose their lives.
Military spouses have had to endure career interruptions, frequent changes of address and a disproportionate share of parental responsibilities.
The children often had to deal with changes in schools, separation from friends and, hardest of all, the uncertainty of whether or not Mom or Dad will live through their next combat tour.
Warriors need advocates and that is why The American Legion exists. We are here to serve veterans, their families and our communities. Veterans need each other, but, more importantly, our country needs our veterans.
You cannot fight a war without veterans and while the utopian idea of a society without war is appealing, let us not forget that wars have liberated slaves, stopped genocide and toppled terrorists.
Those who defend us from our enemies must be supported. Whether their service was in Baghdad or Beirut, we need to serve veterans as well as they serve us — even when the guns have temporarily stopped firing.
The American Legion shows its support for America's heroes through its Family Support Network, Legacy Scholarship Fund, Operation Comfort Warriors, Temporary Financial Assistance and the National Emergency Fund, just to name a few of our programs.
Veterans don't ask for much. They do not want to be in a "special class," but benefits are a mere drop in the bucket compared to the financial and human cost of war. And while not all veterans see war, all who served in the military have expressed a willingness to fight if called to.
You can show your support for these great men and women by hiring a veteran in your workplace, visiting a VA hospital or donating to a veterans program.
Companies should understand that it's smart business to hire veterans, and when members of the Guard and Reserves deploy, it is America's business to ensure that their civilian careers do not suffer.
Homelessness is another issue that affects veterans disproportionately. Too often today's tattered citizen of the street was yesterday's toast-of-the-town in a crisp uniform with rows of shining medals. This is hardly the "thanks of a grateful nation."
We can do better. We must do better.
Historians have said that Dwight Eisenhower was prouder of being a soldier than he was of being the president. And while relatively few veterans ever reach the rank of general, pride in ones' military service is a bond shared by nearly all who have served.
This pride is on display on every obituary page in the country, where military service - regardless of how many decades have passed and subsequent achievements reached - is mentioned with the death notice of nearly every deceased veteran.
Can any CEO or distinguished Ivy League graduate truly claim to have more responsibility than the 21-year-old squad leader walking point on patrol in Afghanistan?
Fewer than 10 percent of Americans can claim the title "veteran." Far less than 1 percent of our population is currently defending us in the Global War on Terrorism. And yet many seem intent on trying to balance the federal budget by diminishing the quality of life programs designed for the families who have already disproportionately made these sacrifices.
Veterans have given us freedom, security and the greatest nation on earth. It is impossible to put a price on that.
We must remember them. We must appreciate them.