By Roger Burt, PhD.
This weekend, we remember, thank and observe, those who died in the service of our country. They stood in our defense to preserve our democracy. For those who died, we call it the ultimate sacrifice.
During the year, we set aside days to show our regard for those who served us, whether by action or with their life. But arguably, we do not go far enough.
Too often, when the conflict ends, we lose sight of the enduring effects left by it. Slowly, we are now recognizing the extent of the effects of war on those who participate in it, and on their families.
We are coming to understand that the effects of combat endure over a lifetime, and that those effects are visited on families, as well. Once again, we are seeing homelessness and unemployment, in addition to enduring physical and emotional trauma.
Yet, it seems as if we are thanking veterans for their service and then showing them the door. It is now eighty days, on average, to receive an evaluation for post-traumatic stress disease (PTSD). People are often mustered out without full knowledge of benefits they are due and could receive.
This is not to say that the military is not making heroic efforts, but it is not enough if the country at large does not take up the cause. The bottom line is that it is not enough to celebrate our heroes. It is not enough to thank them for their service. After World War II, “conservatives” wanted to deny veterans the GI Bill and its benefits. Once again, there is little support by conservatives for doing what needs to be done. The bill, which is due, is large and we must be prepared to pay it.
We clearly need a whole new approach. For most of us, the recent wars have no direct reality, whatsoever. In contrast, veterans and their families experience direct and enduring effects. Isn’t it time that we begin to think about truly giving service to those who have served us? We may need to think outside the box, and look beyond simply spending money, by looking at the various forms of service we, as citizens of this country, can give.