Let’s serve veterans as well as they have served us

By Daniel M. Dellinger

During the recent government shutdown many numbers were thrown around. But there is one number that stands out and it has nothing to do with the debate over the federal budget.

More than one a day. That is how many members of our active-duty military, National Guard and reserve forces have committed suicide over the last year. Simply put, we are losing more service members by their own hands than we are by the enemy in Afghanistan.

Only those who experienced firsthand the horrors of combat can understand why most of these young men and women feel compelled to take such drastic and permanent measures.

As Veterans Day ceremonies and parades occur throughout the country, it is important that we commit ourselves to do everything possible to prevent these needless and tragic deaths.

We are their friends, their family, their co-workers and their neighbors. It is up to us to ensure that every veteran feels that his or her service to this country is appreciated by their fellow Americans. There are many tangible ways that we can acknowledge their sacrifice, but the easiest is to simply say, “Thank you for what you have done for our country.”

If he is showing signs of unhappiness or depression, encourage him to seek help through the VA immediately. If she has had difficulty obtaining the benefits that she is entitled to, let her know that The American Legion has thousands of trained service officers nationwide who will help her navigate the bureaucracy free of charge. And if that veteran has made the Supreme Sacrifice, remember the price that has been paid for our freedom and offer your support to the loved ones left behind.

But Veterans Day is a time to honor not just those who have fought for us in battle, but, in fact, all of the outstanding men and women who served in our nation’s armed forces since our founding more than 237 years ago.

Not all veterans have seen war, but a common bond that they share is an oath in which they expressed their willingness to die defending this nation.

Perhaps most significant in preserving our way of life are the battles that America does not have to fight because those who wish us harm slink away in fear of the Navy aircraft carrier, the Coast Guard cutter, the Air Force fighter squadron or the Army soldier on patrol. Or they have heard the words that recently retired Gen. James Mattis shared with his Marines: “Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

While we should all be grateful for the remarkable advancements made in military medicine and prosthetics, the fighting spirit and inspirational stories of our veterans are not due to technology.

These traits come from the heart.

And many of these veterans are women, such as Army Chief Warrant Officer Lori Hill. While piloting her helicopter over Iraq in 2006, she maneuvered her chopper to draw enemy gunfire away from another helicopter and provide suppressive fire for troops on the ground. Despite flying a damaged aircraft and suffering injuries, she landed the helicopter safely, saving her crew. For her actions, she became the first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Women are major contributors to our military presence in Afghanistan and many have given their lives in the War on Terrorism.

In the poem “Tommy,” the great writer Rudyard Kipling lamented over the rude treatment a British soldier received at a pub. Writing in classical old English, Kipling compared the abuse with the more favorable treatment that “Tommy” receives by the public during war.

“For it’s Tommy this, an ‘Tommy that, an’ ‘Chuck him out, the brute!’

But it’s ‘Savior of ‘is country’ when the guns begin to shoot;

An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;

An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!”

Let us always treat our 23 million veterans as the saviors of our country that they are. Even when the guns are no longer shooting.

Daniel M. Dellinger is national commander of the 2.4 million-member American Legion.

Related posts:

  1. Veterans Day is for ordinary people accomplishing the extraordinary
  2. American Legion hosts veterans benefits seminar
  3. Bill proposes protecting religious symbols on war memorials
  4. Veterans clear brush near Country Estates
  5. Bin Laden’s death, a defining moment

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Nov 10 2013. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Comments for “Let’s serve veterans as well as they have served us”

  1. Jane Tanaka MD

    As a physician specializing in psychiatry, I applaud the American Legions volunteers' efforts to help our veterans through the maze of beauracracy. There are veterans who returned from Afganistan and Iraq and its taken sooooo long to process their %disability status, that they who have LOST their VA medical benefits . Walmart Pharmacy's $4 rx list and the drug manufacturers patient assistance programs are a godsend. Private doctors and therapists are treating them for either much reduced fees or probono to provide help to prevent their acting on suicidal ideation induced by horrific flashbacks and nightmares.

    These veterans are trying their best to rebuild their lives. But its hard to even sit in a classroom when you are hypervigilent. Its hard when you've accidently injured your spouse by pushing her off the bed because of nightmares and hypnogogic hallucinations of being attacked by missiles. Its hard to trust if you've been sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier and you cant tell anyone for years while you are in active duty. Secondary trauma to the family members due to domestic violence is not uncommon, unfortunately..Self medicating with alcohol and mind numbing drugs,due to lack of treatment, is prevalant as well.

  2. Jane Tanaka MD

    I wish that every veteran would be assigned someone whose job is to push their applications through, and to personally communicate with disability evaluators to expedite the process, especially for veterans who are about to lose or have lost their VA medical benefits. Private physicians out there, I find that writing a detailed summary letter for the purpose of assisting the VA evaluators helps them expedite the process , as they do not then have to comb through hundreds of pages of chart notes.Its a little thing we can do to help.

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