Friday and over the weekend, I saw a lot of flags. Lots of inspiring and heart-breaking photos were flying around Facebook and Twitter. Status updates reminded us to thank our veterans. But I’m struggling with that. And here’s why. The television show Extreme Home Makeover aired a show last week about a veteran who’s in my area. The show was touching–they built this veteran and his family a much needed haven. Until that intervention, his PTSD and traumatic brain injury had prevented him from being able to live safely with his family. I was touched by the show, but it also left me with questions. The same questions I’ve had as I see pictures and updates about veterans.
Here’s my question. What about the thousands of veterans and their families who didn’t get chosen to be on national television? What about all of those who are struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and life-changing injuries? How are we caring for them? Who is reaching out to them? Who is lifting them up?
When I read stories like the Salon piece about the prevalence of suicide among active-duty military and recent veterans, or a report showing that nearly 14% of veterans age 26-29 experienced major depressive episodes, I think that maybe we have missed the point of Veteran’s Day. When I hear news coverage suggesting that 1 in 8 recent veterans is unemployed, I think that maybe we’ve missed the point of Veteran’s Day.
So maybe, instead of thanking our vets, or shaking their hands, or posting pictures of flags, we need to do something else. Maybe we need to be active and vocal about getting more comprehensive mental health access for veterans. Maybe we need to pull together as communities to care for those veterans who were so gravely disabled during their service that they can no longer care for themselves.
Whether you agree or not with military action, I think that we can all agree that people who put their lives on the line to serve our country deserve better than this.
So as I think about this, I’m challenging myself and you all to take some kind of concrete action to truly support veterans and their health needs. Something beyond a handshake or a “thank you.”
Photo Credit: Beverly & Pack