Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day

Earlier today we reached the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

That is the time each year when we remember the armistice that ended hostilities in WWI, and we spend the full day honoring all veterans of all American wars.

It is very important on this day and all days to remember those veterans who have given our country "the last full measure of devotion," but Veteran's Day should also be an occasion to think about what we are doing for the veterans who have returned to civilian life and are living among us.


MSNBC, the New York Times, and many other news organizations have tried to call attention to the ongoing problems with providing promised benefits through the Veteran's Administration (VA). The Daily Show even crafted a stirring segment on the problem earlier this year. This is something we should not be tolerating as a nation.

We should also be attentive to the veterans who are returning with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and need help coping with this difficult and often misunderstood disorder. PTSD is deeply affecting the lives of veterans and not enough is being done to help these veterans adjust to civilian life and to living with PTSD. Iraq War Veteran Jason Moon was featured in a documentary by Notre Dame professor Olivier Morel called "On the Bridge." In this clip from the film he shares honestly and powerfully what the experience of a veteran with PTSD is like. We need to acknowledge the veterans with PTSD and find ways to help them help themselves and feel safe.

Another problem for veterans back home, and remember these and other issues facing veterans are all often interconnected, is homelessness. The numerous internal and external challenges veterans face upon returning home and adjusting to civilian life leave some veterans struggling more than others, even to the point of homelessness. Degage Ministries, a charity that helps homeless individuals, recently produced a video that has been widely circulated showing a time-lapse make-over of a homeless army veteran. The video highlights how simply acknowledging the humanity of these veterans and improving their self-image can do wonders--the video explains that Jim Wolf is now attending AA meetings and is on his way to finding housing.

Essentially, instead of just taking today to thank veterans, we should also make an effort to recognize the veterans around us every day and to let them know we are there for them. Veterans are strong, good people who just need the rest of us to recognize them as people. They need us to deliver on the benefits we promised and to give them a real chance to show us what they can do. Their opportunities to serve our country and our communities don't have to end when their military service does, and neither should they.

Here is a charity helping veterans with PTSD by providing trained therapy dogs: http://www.pawsforpurplehearts.org/

Here are places in Indiana to help homeless veterans, including South Bend's own Center for the Homeless: http://www.nchv.org/index.php/help/help-indiana

Here is a rated list of legitimate charities that help veterans, including a charity called Homes for Our Troops: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=531#.UoEZFvlJOAg

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