It’s easy to celebrate Veterans Day.
After all, who doesn’t want to mark the service of the brave men and women who served their country in the armed forces? While we have disagreed from time to time in our country over the conflicts themselves, we have usually remained united in respect and admiration of those who have risked their lives to defend the country.
But words are one thing. Public displays of patriotism are easy and simple and low risk. What’s much more difficult is taking that respect that we show on Veterans Day and translating it into actual action on behalf of those who served so bravely.
Are we funding veterans health services? Are we providing for veteran housing programs? Are we supporting the broad range of services needed to ensure good lines for those who wore the uniform of the United States?
Are we willing to back up our words with actions?
Our country has a spotty record of doing so, and it’s unfortunately related to our public disagreements over the conflicts. After World War II, the entire government mobilized to provide an unprecedented array of services and supports for returning troops. The G.I. Bill and its benefits paved the way for a massive creation of prosperity and wealth in the 1950s and 1960s that persists to this very day.
Unfortunately, after the conflict in Vietnam, such an outpouring was not forthcoming. Veterans themselves had to fight for services and recognition. In some cases, those struggles unfortunately continue.
Fatigue itself has clouded the view for our most recent group of service men and women. Action in Afghanistan is nearly two decades old, and the second Iraq conflict is only a couple of years younger. Waves of troops have come and gone as the fighting and nation building ground on. But just because those conflicts may be wearying, it doesn’t excuse us from taking care of those who stepped up to do their part for our country.
And the costs can be shattering. There are physical and mental injuries, of course, but also separation from family and friends for months or years at a time. There is separation from a society that doesn’t necessarily honor the same bonds or follow the same code.
This Veterans Day, let’s commit ourselves to more than simple appreciation. Let’s commit ourselves to tangible service and care. All of those who have served our country honorably deserve no less.