Remembering those who served


Michael Salois, Vice President of Program Operations, Veterans Services Programs, Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio

With each generation, we remember that Veterans Day is a day when we take time to remember those who served.

Last summer, my seven year old son visited Washington DC for the first time. Of all the monuments and museums, two really stood out to him – the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. While we were there, I shared with him that his grandfather, my father, had fought in the Vietnam War. My son never knew his grandfather. As we were leaving the memorial, he looked on the ground and found a small piece of metal. What initially looked like just another piece of litter ended up being a souvenir coin showing an image of the memorial.

Recently, my son brought home an assignment from his teacher to identify a family member who was a Veteran. When we told him that no one in our family was a Veteran, he quickly reminded us that his Grandpa Gene was a soldier in the Vietnam War and was a Veteran. On Veterans Day, he will take his coin to school and talk about his Grandpa Gene who was, and always will be, a Veteran.

Veterans Day is a day when we take time to remember those who served. Every November 11, our Veterans come to the forefront as media, politicians, businesses and schools shift their focus to those who served. While it is important that we take time to remember and honor those who served, it is vital that we remember that the challenges our Veterans face go well beyond Veterans Day and do not just disappear with parades and expressions of respect and gratitude.

Despite our best efforts, Veterans continue to experience homelessness and unemployment at rates higher than the general population. Mental illness and substance abuse continue to drive many of our Veterans to isolation, despair and, far too frequently, suicide, which again occur at rates higher than the general population.

We need to put our efforts toward not just ending Veteran homelessness but providing Veterans opportunities to live with the dignity and honor that they have earned through their service. We need to develop housing options for the aging Veteran to live in a community with their fellow Veterans and for the female Veteran so that she can live in an environment where she feels safe. We need to devise new strategies and supports to aid new Veterans in their transition back to civilian life.

As a country, we owe it to our Veterans to do what it takes to provide for them the quality of life that they have served to guarantee for us.

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