Veterans Day: The story behind the holiday

How the battle for some doesn’t end when they come home

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Warning: Before reading, be advised that sensitive material is discussed in this story. Reader discretion is advised.

I, like many of you probably did, forgot that Monday was Veterans Day. I am disappointed in myself, but I am even more disappointed in how I found out.

When I was on Snapchat Monday morning, someone I went to high school with posted about what they did to “acknowledge” that day, or, rather, their failure to do so. My alma mater, located in a very rural area, made sure to note that Monday was “National Hug A Girl Day,” but was there was no mention of Veterans Day.

Originally known as Armistice Day, this day marked the official end of World War I, which was the bloodiest and most devastating war the world had ever seen at that time. The holiday became official on November 11, 1938. The name of the holiday was changed to “Veterans Day” after World War II to celebrate all veterans on June 1, 1954, rather than just those who served in World War I.

Many often confuse this day with Memorial Day. Memorial Day celebrates soldiers who have died while in service, whereas Veterans Day is dedicated to all who have served in the armed forces.

The day is noted as a federal holiday — federal offices are (supposed) to be closed, schools (should be) shut down and the post office (most likely would be) closed. However, my alma mater was open, and I received my mail after lunch.

Has everyone in the United States forgotten about Veterans Day? No — several businesses were still closed and President Donald Trump gave remarks as several parades occurred on Monday.

You know what people did forget about? The high rates of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and the large number of veterans who take their own lives.

A generation ago, the rate at which military members took their own lives was lower than the rate of civilians who did. However, since 2003 there was a sharp spike and increase in military deaths by their own hand, most commonly by firearm. An opinion piece by USA Today noted that “the highest rate — 44.5 per 100,000 — is among veterans ages 18-34.”

It has gotten so high that Pentagon officials have acknowledged this spike as the new normal. How any government official can sleep at night with rates like these are beyond my comprehension.

And then there is the issue of veteran homelessness. Veterans make up 11% of the homeless population, despite only accounting for 7% of the general population.

“Compared with the total veteran population, younger veterans are disproportionately likely to be homeless,” according to mentalfloss.com. However, Vietnam-era veterans account for nearly half of the total homeless veteran population.

Just for reference, the Vietnam War ended around 44 years ago, meaning any soldiers who were 21 by the end of the war are currently 65 years old.

What is the federal government doing about this? What does our commander-in-chief (the draft dodger) do for the men that serve the country he leads, that are willing to put their lives on the line for the safety of a nation?

Trump has contributed to veterans, but there is still so much more to be done. This issue will not be solved by speeches on a holiday.

Although he has increased defense spending, several notable marks of progress to help improve the lives of veterans can be credited to President Barack Obama. However, President Donald Trump has been known to take credit. If he spent as much time improving the conditions for veterans as he does taking credit for other presidents’ accomplishments, Trump might be able to make a bigger impact on their plight.

Additionally, it is more than the draft that Trump has dodged. He is noted with being a no-show for several ceremonies dedicated to veterans, both domestically and internationally.  The most noteworthy incident happened one year ago, when the president missed the 100th ceremony in France to celebrate the end of World War I.

For veterans, the battle is not over once they return to the U.S. The physical and mental scars they gained may never heal, due in part to the fact that they have not been able to receive adequate treatment to help save them.

Yes, I forgot that this Monday was Veterans Day. But I certainly have never forgotten the challenges our veterans fight in their day-to-day lives. That is something I remember all 365 days of the year and something that needs to be acknowledged more than once a year.

Speeches and parades are nice, but do not let them cover up our troops who take their own lives or are living on the streets. Take action.

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