November 11th is Veterans Day, a day when Americans celebrate the brave men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces. Yet, for many of us, the day passes with little thought or opportunity to honor our veterans. For many veterans, the most powerful thanks you can give is to simply understand why they served and what this nation stands for because of their service.
It’s easy to think we know what being in the military is like. My grandson just joined the Army and we couldn’t be prouder of him. My husband served in the Navy and my niece and nephew are both in the Army. We see movies about instilling discipline and teamwork, following orders and being tough. The news shows us all the scary stuff: land mines, gun battles and enemy combatants lurking around every corner. Our soldiers train for those situations. However, sometimes the toughest parts aren’t the life-threatening predicaments, they are the absent from life moments they miss the most. Birthday parties, graduations, baby’s births, illness and so much more. Serving in the military comes with its own set of challenges for both the veteran and their families. Sometimes, those that served us so honorably and made sacrifices, feel abandoned, misunderstood or ignored.
A recent study conducted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs looked into suicides of military veterans. In 2014, an average of 22 veterans die from suicide each day. Six out of 20 were users of Veterans Administration services. Veterans accounted for 18 percent of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults while veterans constituted 8.5 percent of the U.S. population. In addition, there are over 67,000 homeless veterans in the US today.
So what can you do to honor and thank a Veteran this year? Start by showing some appreciation. Fly your flag. Visit a VA Hospital or veteran’s cemetery and decorate a grave. There are many public events and parades for honoring our service men and women. Look for charities to donate to veteran’s causes.
You may have seen the recent #22pushups campaign on social media. This stems from the #22KILL movement started in 2013 after the VA released the staggering statistic that an average of 22 veterans are killed by suicide every day. 22KILL has committed to researching and understanding the genesis of this epidemic, and educating the general public on the issues of suicide and mental health issues that can lead to suicide. These issues can stem from Post-Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, or the struggles and stresses of transitioning from military to civilian life.
If you can’t afford to make a donation at this time you can go to amillionthanks.org and send a letter of appreciation to a veteran. This non-profit doesn’t cost you anything but your time.
American’s Veterans have done everything asked of them in their mission to serve our country and it is never too late to give them a hero’s welcome home. I hope you’ll consider showing your appreciation to all of those who have served and are serving our country, no matter how you do it. I like to re-read In Flanders’ Fields which always provides a poignant reminder of our soldier’s brave sacrifices.
Happy Veterans Day!