“Thank You For Your Service” is a phrase that is frequently heard by veterans and active duty (yes – including National Guard) nowadays. Today’s veterans are thankful that on the whole, Americans have treated them better than those returning from Vietnam. Most Americans have seen the news reports and special reports detailing the hardships and sacrifices of our military fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Our hearts go out to them and their families enduring the trials, loss, and heartbreak that go hand in hand with those hardships and sacrifices.
What most Americans are NOT fully aware of is the magnitude of the battles these veterans fight when they return home. Sure, we have all seen a news report here and there about a particular individual fighting to overcome a war injury. There are a multitude of issues these folks have to deal with upon returning to the United States. They are returning to an environment where their homes, for the most part, are not worth what they paid for them. There are a LOT less jobs available now; gone are the days when a returning veteran can get a job within a month of coming home. It has become more common place that the military spouse may have lost their job as well. In addition, for some reason, a significant amount of employers are hesitant to hire returning war veterans for fear of PTSD related issues or difficulties dealing with disabilities. There are many who return with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and begin to try to recover and embrace some sense of a “normal” life. Then there are those who return with physical injuries, often times devastating; injuries that they would not, could not have survived even 15 years ago. These brave men and women must begin the long, arduous road to recovery. In addition to these challenges, they must deal with VA backlog when trying to obtain medical treatment and timely payment of benefits they have earned.
Veterans are humble people. They do not think they are entitled to anything special, only what they have earned and what they were promised; access to appropriate medical care (including mental health counseling) in a timely manner, for a period appropriate to ensure a functional recovery. They are only looking for a fair shake and a hand-up, not a hand-out. So think about these things the next time you tell a veteran “Thank You For Your Service.” If you can help them in some small way – do it. And remember that a smile is the universal way to improve anyone’s day.
VA Caregiver Support Line Open
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a toll-free National VA Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274.
Callers receive guidance, education about VA programs and benefits, information on community resources, emotional support through brief supportive counseling, and connection to the Veteran Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255) and Coaching Into Care Line (1-888-823-7458) when needed.
Support line hours are 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
(The author retired after 20 years active duty service in the United States Army.)