Op-Ed

To those who have borne the battle, we owe honor

Posted

Veterans Day is our opportunity to publicly recognize and express our appreciation for those who have served in the nation’s armed forces. It is the day that evolved from Armistice Day, which commemorated the moment when the brutality of World War I ended, in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 101 years ago.

“In a world tormented by tension and the possibilities of conflict, we meet in a quiet commemoration of an historic day of peace,” President John F. Kennedy said on Nov. 11, 1961. “In an age that threatens the survival of freedom, we join together to honor those who made our freedom possible.”

We have more than 18 million veterans, and 1.5 million of them are between ages 18 and 34. Eight and a half million are over 65. Women comprise about 1.6 million. There are 700,000 vets living in New York state.

Veterans deserve more than one special day of respect for their service and sacrifice. As ceremonies are held in our villages and cities next week, we should spend more than a few minutes thinking about the gifts our service members have given us. As towns and school communities celebrate them and honor the sacrifices they made, we should also think about their needs, and do what we can to support those who need help. As Lincoln said among the Civil War graves at Gettysburg, “It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

Do you know a veteran who could use a ride to a doctor or hospital for a checkup or treatment? Do you have time to volunteer at a Veterans Administration hospital? If you’re part of the hiring process where you work, can you give a veteran some extra consideration, or even go out of your way to recruit former military women and men?

Long Island has Honor Flights that transport veterans to Washington, D.C., to tour our war memorials, to thank them for their service. You can support those flights, which leave from MacArthur Airport. Contact Virginia Bennett at vbennett@southamptontownny.gov.

I asked a local Navy veteran friend what she’d like you to know. “Veterans lose a few things when they leave service — the camaraderie of others like them, a daily purpose,” she said. She urges us to support local organizations that support veterans, “because they are essential for transitioning vets finding success as civilians.”

“Nobody comes out of active duty the same as they went in,” she went on. “Proper mental health care is important — and severely lacking. Civilians can help advocate for these things, questioning political candidates about where they stand on veterans’ issues.

“There are barely any shelters exclusive for women veterans,” my friend added, “and many of the ones we do have don’t allow our children, or the vets are mixed with men vets or civilian women with substance-abuse issues. Veterans don’t all suffer from those issues, and shouldn’t have to stay in facilities when they briefly need a roof over their head. We could do so much to help them not become homeless if we had these shelters.”

She mentioned groups she supports: the Warrior Ranch Foundation, the Travis Manion Foundation and Team RWB (for red, white and blue) are good examples of the types of programs veterans need. Guardian House is a shelter upstate for women veterans.

If you’re a veteran, stay informed about the opportunities, services and benefits available to you. The Veterans Administration exists to help. Subscribe to a newsletter for veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors at www.VA.gov/VetResources.

The VA has resources for health care, housing, employment, careers, training, disability, pension and records, and more. Start at www.VA.gov. If you know a veteran who isn’t internet-savvy, that’s a small service you can perform, helping him or her access what they need.

There’s a 24-hour hotline for veterans in crisis: call (800) 273-8255 and press 1, or text 838255.

We are obliged, I believe, to acknowledge that those who have trained to fight our wars, who have seen their comrades fall, the warriors who have won the peace sometimes come home with physical and mental injuries. The peace they won for us they lost for themselves. We should do more than speak of their sacrifice. Make sure that our elected representatives, from your village to Albany to Washington, never forget to honor them in deed on our behalf.

Services for veterans

• Veterans Service Agency: (516) 572-6560

• Nassau County Veterans Service Agency’s Transportation Program to VA Hospital and East Meadow VA Clinic: (516) 572-6560

• VA Hospital, Northport: (631) 261-4400

• Veterans Center: (516) 348-0088

• VA Regional: (800) 827-1000

• L.I. State Veterans Nursing Home: (631) 444-8500

John O’Connell is the former executive editor of the Herald Community Newspapers. Comments about this column? OConnell11001@yahoo.com.