Veterans Day: More than a bank holiday

By Amanda Finnegan
November 17, 2006

Each Nov. 11, we set aside the day to honor the courageous men and women who have served our country. On this particular day, children have off from school, banks close, the mail stops and Macy’s has a one-day-sale-all to reflect on the sacrifices service men and women have made for us civilians. We pay tribute to our veterans only one day a year, yet their struggles continue throughout their lives. It doesn’t seem fair that there is one day set aside to honor veterans when we expect them to give themselves completely every day.

Although the American spirit appears to be strong on Veterans Day with a presidential address at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and parades around the nation, our veterans deserve more than kind words and confetti. As of 2005, nearly 2.6 million veterans were receiving disability compensation, according to Veterans Affairs, a testament of how much assistance veterans need after they return home.

Tacking yellow ribbons onto cars and putting the American flag out on holidays is not the only support our past and present troops need. As troops begin to trickle home from Iraq and Afghanistan, emotional issues and physical disabilities are following them as well.

About 30,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have sought treatment for post traumatic stress disorder, which affects soldiers who have been in prolonged situations of danger, according to the New York Times.

However, it is not only today’s war that is affecting many veterans. Returning from the Vietnam War, veterans were perceived by the American public as participants in a dishonorable war rather than as persons following the orders of their commander in chief. Although they were not hailed as heroes when they came home, these veterans were a part of the largest group of recipients for disability compensation according to the New York Times. As the suffering remains with the Vietnam veterans today, we continue to put current soldiers through many of the same difficulties as their predecessors.

Some of these men and women return home without the security they left with. They are thrown back into a tornado of normalcy, expected to just jump back into the life they had left before their tour of duty. But, to their surprise, their jobs have been transferred to someone else and the need for their experience is nonexistent.

The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act is meant to protect the veterans who return from war so they can return to their jobs and their lives. This act, however, did not seem to protect the 6,242 veterans that reported job discrimination, job placement problems or inadequate pay or loss of time vacation in 2005.

As Thomas Freidman said in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, “What could possibly be more injurious and insulting to our men and women in uniform than sending them off to war without the proper equipment, so that some soldiers in the field were left to buy their own body armor and to retrofit their own jeeps with scrap metal so that roadside bombs in Iraq would only maim them for life and not kill them?”

By not supplying our troops with the proper equipment they need in the field, we already putting them behind the curve. Our government is creating a generation of disabled veterans, a generation of vets that is our own.

Sure, we can give them counseling sessions, medical coverage and money for college but we can never cure what they went through. We can never make it seem like it didn’t happen. We can offer services, but is there really anything we can do that will equal their sacrifice? What is a substantial reparation for laying down one’s life to fulfill ones commitment to military service? These are the men and women that have fought for the safety of our country, losing limbs, friends and hope.

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Amanda Finnegan

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