Much of the world next month will celebrate an important 100-year anniversary. One hundred years ago on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918, the armistice that ended World War I was signed. At the time, World War I was labeled the “war to end all wars.” Clearly, that was not true. The United States has been involved in all too many wars in the last century. In that time, thousands of young men and women have died, many more injured, in the service of their country. While many countries throughout the world still celebrate Armistice Day, we in the United States now celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11 (or, officially, this year on the Monday thereafter).
Two years ago I was fortunate to celebrate Veterans Day at a religious retreat house near Indianapolis. As the treasurer, I am an officer of the board of a peace and justice ministry affiliated with my denomination. We have held our annual board meeting the last few years on the weekend of Veterans Day. In 2016, we were blessed to have two young veterans join us as guest presenters.
To this day I remember the young Marine veteran of Iraq who spoke to us about her struggles with PTSD, which in her case led to depreciation and suicidal thoughts. She discussed her difficulties in obtaining psychological counseling or other support from the Department of Veterans Affairs. She claims to have called a VA hotline and told them she was having suicidal thoughts. Incredibly, the VA’s response was that she could have an appointment to see a counselor in several weeks, more than a month away. Fortunately, a compassionate member of the clergy assisted her until such time that professional counseling was available.
As a Navy veteran, I did not experience anything like what this young Marine experienced in Iraq. Although I am a Vietnam-era veteran, I did not serve in Vietnam or anywhere near the battlefield, unlike the young Marine veteran who obviously experienced trauma in her time of service to her country.
Annually, veterans are honored for our service. That’s fine. But I when I think of the young Marine veteran who I met near Indianapolis two years ago, I am reminded that for some veterans, something more than a free meal or a “thank-you for your service” are needed. Some veterans have witnessed or experienced horrific events and as a result suffer from PTSD. Others struggle to obtain meaningful employment or adequate housing as they have returned to civilian life. This year, don’t just “thank a veteran” for his or her service. Write a letter to the governor, to your congressman, or to your local newspaper requesting full funding of medical, psychological, employment training, and housing services for returned or returning veterans who have served in combat zones.
I will be returning next month to Indianapolis and that same religious retreat center over Veterans Day weekend. I am hoping that in these past two years, that the life of the young Marine veteran has improved greatly. If I get a chance to see her again this year, I will most certainly “thank her for her service” and offer to buy her a meal. In addition, as a Navy veteran I would offer her the Navy salutation “fair winds and following seas.”
As a U.S. Marine, she served and continues to serve her country honorably. She has more than upheld her contract to America to always be faithful. Will we Americans uphold our commitment to her and her fellow vets to be faithful to them, as eloquently stated in the Marine Corps motto: Semper Fi?
Ahead of the Armistice Day anniversary, read more about the history of this remembrance. This History Channel website might be a good place to start: www.history.com/topics/holidays/history-of-veterans-day
Robert L. Burgess, a Michigan native, has lived in Lincoln Township since 1993. His email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.