Another Veterans Day has come and gone, but the reasons for the observance are as valid days after the commemoration, for each day until the next one rolls around again. It may sound cliché, and if so, we shall have to live with it. But every day, in some small way, should be regarded as Veterans Day.
Unfortunately, things associated with veterans have been horribly politicized, to a point where we can forget what a veteran truly is, why we honor our veterans, and what we need to do in order to treat them with the proper respect.
First, let’s work with the definition.
Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations defines a veteran as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.”
While many veterans have seen combat during our nation’s forays into war, not all veterans have done so. But that doesn’t make them any less of a veteran. We have in the past run articles about Cold War veterans, probably one of the least recognized but certainly worthy groups of vets. These are the men and women who served in our military during what was essentially a time of peace — sandwiched between the Korean War and the Vietnam war — but marked by tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. There were many different assignments thrust upon military members at that time, some physically risky, others psychologically detrimental. We don’t do enough to honor these men and women, and they should be in our thoughts when we think of veterans along with all of those who have had to fire weapons and be fired upon in the larger wars and conflicts.
We mentioned politicization earlier. Politicization is the claiming of veterans as the exclusive cause or property of a particular political party or ideology. Before, during and after their times of service, veterans have been Republicans and Democrats, socialists and Conservative or Liberal party members. Likewise, they are of diverse ethnic and religious groups. For any one group to claim them, or for the picture in one’s mind to be of one particular group or sect, is just plain wrong.
Soldier or sailor, marine or airman, each service member is sworn to uphold the laws of our nation and to obey the commander in chief of the nation, whomever that may be. They are trained to follow orders and not to question, because this has been the lot of the soldier from the times before Pharoah’s army.
Veterans do not ask for special treatment, although certainly they are entitled to such.
What our laws and traditions have long recognized is that in return for this unquestioning service up to and including assignments that jeopardize life and limb, we owe our veterans a lifetime of special privileges including medical treatment, and what we offer is likely not enough. It is our perception that as the years progress, we are holding a bit truer to our promises. But there have been many instances of failure. The refusal of military honchos to recognize the true nature and prevalence of Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome, and the refusal of the government to take responsibility for damage done by Agent Orange are among those.
The fact of the matter is this. For periods of two years to many, many more, men and women agree to give up their personal liberties when joining the services. They are weapons for the wars, they have been fodder for experiments, they agree to endure discipline that would cause many of us to simply say “take this job and shove it” were we subjected to what they take for granted as a part of their service. Due to the stress of what they have gone through, even if not exposed to a single shot, some have had lasting health issues, physical and psychological.
The truest respect we can give veterans is to make good on our promise that their medical, educational and to some degree financial well-being are all respected and provided for. It is important that every American and every member of Congress recognize this. When it comes to benefits for our veterans there should never be cause for debate, except for whether any of what we humbly offer is truly enough.