November 11, 2010

Serving Those Who Serve Us

I don't usually reprint the emails I get from political figures. Today, for Veterans Day, I'm making an exception. I can't really say it better than this.

Veterans Day provides us with the chance to mark the debt of honor we owe to all those who have worn the uniform of the United States. We remember those who gave their lives beneath our flag, in service of our freedom.

And with so many still fighting, we owe special thanks to the courageous families of those who serve.

Because when our servicemen and women deploy overseas, their loved ones are left to undertake heroic battles of their own at home. The unique challenges they face in support of men and women in uniform allow us all to enjoy the freedoms of our democracy.

Every time I have a chance to meet with these families, I'm struck by their strength and their quiet dignity -- they are truly some of the most selfless, courageous people I've met.

And today is also a day to acknowledge the sacrifices these brave men and women make every day, and pray for the safe return of those they love.

I've felt their calling personally, and I want to encourage Americans across the country to step up and do more for our military families. Take the time to stay informed about the concerns and activities of the families of service members in your community. Let them know you recognize their struggles and appreciate all they do.

You can help by finding out the needs of the military families in your community and volunteering, from working with your local school's PTA to hiring a military spouse.

Today and every day, I am moved by the personal sacrifices made by service families. And I'm humbled by the patriotism of those they support -- our soldiers and airmen, our sailors and Marines.

Today, if you can, please take a moment to offer your gratitude for the families of the veterans and active service members that you know. Or go online to to find out how you can serve military families in your area.



I will add to what the First Lady had to say, though. Volunteer opportunities are good. Opportunities to donate are good. I'll plug one of my favorites a little later. Neither of these, however, is enough. These things only go on as long as we're paying attention, and as a society, we do a really crappy job of paying attention, particularly when the subject is something as bleak as war or as guilt-inducing as the sacrifices of others that we don't share.

That is why we need to collectively shoulder the responsibility of taking care of our veterans. That is why it pisses me off that Senator Kent Conrad invoked the sacrifices of veterans in endorsing a set of deficit-reduction measures that would raise the fees these same veterans pay for service from the Veterans Administration.

But you know today is Veterans’ Day. You think of what they sacrificed for this country. If some of us have to sacrifice a political career to get this country back on track then so be it. It has to be done.

It's nice that Senator Conrad is only a little concerned with his career. Really nifty. However, he's missing the point. His political career isn't the issue. The issue is that, for the past eight years, our service members have carried the burden of two wars that the majority of us agreed were a good thing. What have they done that we haven't?
  • They have endured separation from their loved ones, and their families have stepped in to make day-to-day life go on without them, despite the stress of knowing what it might mean every time the doorbell rings.
  • They have lived with the risks, day in and day out, that we've done such a good job not thinking about.
  • They have been killed, and they have killed. In our names, so that we haven't had to.
  • Despite our military technological marvels, they have sustained a rate of major limb injuries similar to veterans of the Vietnam War.
  • They have sustained a much higher incidence of brain injuries than the veterans of previous wars, without the care those injuries require.
  • They have suffered from PTSD and high rates of suicide, also without receiving the care they are due (ZenMonkey offers some specifics on how you can help with this problem).
How about you? What have you done? Have you at least contacted your senators and representative in the House to tell them what to do with the VA proposal from the Deficit Commission? If not (and you live in the U.S.), please do that now. Not having to make additional sacrifices for their health is the least we owe our veterans. The very least.

While you're sending an email (it's so very easy these days), remind them that you consider the well-being of those who serve us to be a much higher priority than giving more to those who already have plenty. Talk to them about how you feel about the ongoing wars, as well. Tell them that our military members and family are important to you--both today and when you go to vote.

Also, please consider one more thing. Many of you celebrate Christmas or have family who do. This is traditionally a major indulgence holiday, a celebration of consumerism. It doesn't have to be. If you're one of those people who is hard to shop for, ask for a donation to be made to an organization that helps veterans, service members, and their families instead.

You can also do what we do, and give donations to others. For the past several years, much of our extended family has received donations to Fisher House, along with some homemade baked goodies, as their presents. It not only takes some of the money that would otherwise be spent on, say, another sweater and sends it where it can do real good, but it also puts military charities in front of those who might be looking to make last minute donations before the tax year ends. And it reminds everyone of the fighting going on in our names.

But whatever you do, however much or little you can, please take the opportunity today to figure out how you can help those who have sacrificed for you.

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