Many of us, probably most of us, know a veteran. They are our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers.
Some of us likely fewer of us since the U.S. military is now all volunteer know a veteran from our more recent Gulf wars. They are the students we went to school with, the neighbor kid who once mowed our lawn, the star athlete we cheered for on the high school football team.
Today, try thinking of them on the battlefield, or in a myriad other roles they and other veterans performed in defense of Americas safety and security. Think of some of them leaving their service scarred and broken. Think of some of them homeless and hungry. Think of some of them jobless and struggling.
Think of them. Thank them.
Its a small thing to do on this observance of Veterans Day. After all, theyve done a lot for us.
Of the more than 22 million veterans living today, more than 17 million served in wars 5.9 million of them during recent Gulf wars. In North Carolina, there are more than 765,900 and 570,400 served during wartime. In neighboring South Carolina, there are 406,700 with 304,800 giving wartime service. Veterans Day is a day to acknowledge and honor all who have served in our armed forces.
Of course, honoring and recognizing veterans isnt all we should do. As a new report by the Center for a New American Security points out, veterans need this country to better address a number of issues some of which grew out of their service.
Many veterans returned home from their military duty needing a lot of medical help for both physical and emotional problems. Many are disabled; many are depressed; some are suicidal.
Additionally, about 70,000 veterans are homeless, relegated largely to sleeping on the streets. Thousands cant find jobs the jobless rate among veterans is an astounding 25 percent.
The report released Friday, entitled, Upholding the Promise: Supporting Veterans and Military Personnel in the Next Four Years, notes sadly that far too many veterans dont have faith in the government or public to help them deal with these issues. Written by a former Army officer who served in Iraq and later in the Defense Department, the report identifies three areas for focus: issues associated with military service including suicides, combat stress and homelessness; improving government service, chiefly reversing the growth of the claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs; and ensuring that public officials dont become apathetic about the needs of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans as the wars end.
Several groups are already focusing on veterans unemployment and helping veterans transition to civilian life. The nonprofit Charlotte Bridge Home, www.charlottebridgehome.org, got under way earlier this year to provide help and support to such veterans. About 130,000 veterans live in the Charlotte region with about 55,000 in Mecklenburg County.
Businesses and other organizations are helping as well, providing job training and work. A federal tax credit is available to employers who hire veterans.
As you thank a veteran today, think of what more you can do to help. They fulfilled their obligation. We must fulfill ours.
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