Our veterans need to be taken care of after the fight is over, and that’s one of the most important duties we have as Americans. But so many times these days they’re forgotten about left out in the cold, and it’s absolutely disgraceful. We owe so much to our vets, both those who made it home and those who didn’t, and we can never repay them for their service, but the least we can do is give them the care they deserve after they put their lives on the line to defend our freedom. We absolutely need to take care of our veterans.
Our veterans need to be taken care of after the fight is over.
The United States military is composed of brave men and women who, through their service, give more than they get. These courageous patriots are often seen as superhuman simply because they are willing to stand up for freedom even when many of us would not. At best, they are truly under-appreciated; at worst, some see them as nothing more than disposable tools. There is no doubt that no matter how old or young you are today, it’s entirely possible you wouldn’t be here without them. As a generation, we need to do better by those who have given so much. This means holding Congress accountable for doing right by those who have done so much right. Doing anything less dishonors those few but proud citizens that defend our nation every day.
When it comes down to it, having a free country worth living in doesn’t come cheap – perhaps never was cheap – yet people volunteer to pay a price most will never know nor understand. Service isn’t necessarily synonymous with sacrifice, though it almost always includes both. Because of their willingness to serve in defense of others, our servicemen and women suffer immeasurable amounts on behalf of others. They endure grueling conditions while away from home with little support only to return physically damaged in one way or another. Often times they suffer injuries both physical and mental that have lifetime implications.
Although there are many programs currently in place designed to help rehabilitate our veterans when they return home after deployment, there is still work left to be done before all issues can be resolved successfully. The true cost of war goes beyond dollars and cents. Every time we deploy troops to fight overseas, we put family members through hell during long periods of separation. The loss of life has been known to cause families irreparable damage despite what support organizations exist to help cope with bereavement in such circumstances. On top of financial hardship and trauma, these individuals also deal with alienation and depression brought about by constant danger and uncertainty, which can result in high rates of suicide well into retirement years among combat veterans.
Without proper aid during rehabilitation or compensation for what they have sacrificed themselves, our veterans face stiffer challenges upon returning home where society needs them most. Furthermore, soldiers returning from traumatic deployments are still faced with tremendous pressure to reintegrate back into society, leading to feelings of isolation, anxiety, substance abuse, chronic pain, sleep disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), divorce, and homelessness. While our government has taken steps in recent years to improve opportunities for veterans upon returning home following service abroad, current figures tell us that there is still much work to be done.
That’s why we should start by giving something back: if we owe them our lives already then we should invest further in supporting them. While public attention tends to focus on extreme cases like wounded warriors who require medical assistance or funds set aside for college tuition due to disabilities incurred during the conflict, there remain a lot more low-profile heroes struggling on their own. According to statistics published by The Washington Post, in 2007 it was estimated that 41 percent of veterans in need of care for severe psychological issues were unable to obtain treatment. Overall, half of Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans who sought help from Veterans Affairs between 2001 and 2007 had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment. These numbers are still higher when you look at specific branches within the military. For example, in 2011 less than 60 percent of Marines with PTSD were able to get treatment through VA services.
If we consider anyone deployed during or after 9/11 a veteran, by 2013 there were over 2 million former service members filing disability claims related to psychological injury—that’s one out of eight. In addition to service-related benefits, many veterans suffer from a lack of adequate healthcare, unemployment, and poverty when returning home. In fact, there are roughly 20 million military veterans in America today and around 15 percent live below or near the poverty line. Despite a strong national economy, in 2014 it was estimated that 24 percent of American vets fall into that category. The stress endured during active duty can have lasting consequences—not just for veterans but for their loved ones as well—yet few people seem to recognize how dangerous it is to be without support when transitioning out of military service after facing so much fear and death.