Veterans Day thoughts

Few Americans serve or have served in the nation’s armed forces or have family members in the military service, so special commemorations, like Veterans Day, become all the more important for fellow citizens to take the time and reflect upon and renew the promise to those who have served and are still serving the cause of peace, justice and liberty and, increasingly, in many hot spots around the world.

The number of military veterans totals about 22 million, according to U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs data. Combining that number on veterans to active duty military personnel (about 1.4 million), means only “7.3% of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives,” according to the analytical website FiveThirtyEight.com.

Many citizens may not know, for example, that most U.S. military recruits — almost two-thirds —  come from areas in which household income is lower than the national median, according to a non-profit group, National Priorities Project, that examined Defense Department data. Many of the counties the recruits come from had higher poverty rates than the national and state averages. There are many reasons young men and women choose to volunteer for the military, such as patriotism, career objectives, travel and structure and discipline, but it is no secret that escaping economic hardship is also a factor.

How many of us have recognized that from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, immigrants have made significant contributions to the U.S. by serving in our military forces? Today, immigrants voluntarily serve in all branches, are a vital resource in the ongoing conflict against Al Qaeda, ISIS and their affiliates, have helped the Pentagon meet recruiting goals, and more than 700 are members of the hallowed Medal of Honor fraternity, according to the Immigration Policy Center.

Has it sunk in yet for more of us that female veterans are not to be dismissed upon first impression, or rather misconception, as simply the daughter or wife of men who are the “actual” veteran? Female veterans in 2015 totaled 1.6 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But too often the notion of women as veterans is still obscured by societal  

misassociation. So much so that the VA has turned to public service announcement videos

to challenge viewers to rethink preconceived notions. In the videos, the women vets talk about what a veteran looks like, what it means to be one, and some share their “crazy personal experiences” with the general public’s reaction to their finding out their veteran status.

The nation’s collective promise to returning soldiers includes that they need not bear their sacrifice and wounds alone, that they won’t be forgotten and their families will not have to face the future with uncertainty. The nation has promised that we will remember to embrace and care for survivors of those who do not return.

Veterans Day comes only a short time away from Thanksgiving Day. That feels right because both holidays make us count our blessings and give thanks.

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  • Alta Vista

    It’s so sad that mandatory national service has been eliminated in America since the 1970s. The well-to-do have always dodged the draft (our current President for one). And the burden of defending our country falls disproportionately on the poor and minorities.nnThe people with the smallest slice of the American Dream die (or are horribly mutilated, both physically and mentally) just so the rest of us can get fat in front of our big screen TVs.nnThe entire 30 year history of our ongoing wars in the Middle East would have certainly been very different if EVERYONE was required to give something back for the privilege of being a US citizen.nnI remember being so ashamed when, after 9/11, President G.W. Bush urged Americans to ‘go shopping’ instead of serving our country.nnAnd, to add insult to injury, our VA fails our veterans EVERY SINGLE DAY. We must do better for these heroes!

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