Happy Veteran’s Day!
While America’s rich and diverse history is undeniably something to be proud of, it’s also hard to deny that our country has seen its fair share of turbulence and tension, including dozens of wars. From the Revolutionary War for independence to battles fought in foreign countries, brave Americans throughout history have fought for democracy, human rights, and the land that they love. To honor their service and sacrifice — and to acknowledge the struggles of veterans — November 11th of every year is Veteran’s Day!
Celebrating Veteran’s Day
Originally, the date of November 11 celebrated the end of World War I in 1918. The date marks the signing of the armistice, which ended the “war to end all wars” after 4 years and over 16 million total deaths. In 1926, “Armistice Day” became a national holiday, but it wasn’t until 1954 when the name officially changed to Veteran’s Day. Due to the historical significance of November 11th, the date stayed the same.
Though Veteran’s Day honors all veterans, the holiday focuses mainly on veterans who are still alive today. This includes veterans from World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Persian Gulf War, and from recent conflicts like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In total, there are 16.1 combat veterans living in the United States, along with another 5.2 million veterans who served during peacetime.
While veterans are regarded with respect in American society, they still face many issues upon returning home from service.
Challenges After Returning Home
One main challenge that veterans face is mental health problems, particularly PTSD. Short for post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD occurs after intense trauma, which makes it particularly prominent among former military members. The characteristics of PTSD include flashbacks to the traumatic event, along with depression, detachment, guilt, or anxiety. Due in part to PTSD and other war-triggered mental illnesses, the suicide rate among veterans is very high. In 2014, an average of 20 veterans died every day by suicide. Former military members account for around 18% of all American adult suicides.
Upon returning home, many veterans suffer from physical problems as well as mental ones. Health issues include amputations, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and even cancer from exposure to certain chemicals or conditions. After returning home, they might also have trouble establishing a doctor, paying for their treatment, or finding support. If a veteran is permanently disabled, an unrelated medical issue may be difficult to manage.
For veterans, there are a variety of resources available through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These resources include medical centers and healthcare. However, the process of receiving care from the VA is not always seamless. For starters, veterans are not immediately enrolled in VA’s healthcare after finishing their military service. This means that the burden to file a claim for healthcare often falls on the veteran or their family. The VA also has a backlog of 1.2 million claims. As a result, it can take a long time for veterans to receive healthcare or other resources.
A Continuing Battle
While veterans deserve respect and care after risking their lives to defend others, this is unfortunately not always the case. Due to PTSD, disabilities, and the struggle to receive healthcare, many veterans find themselves in rough situations. As a result, many struggle with other issues like homelessness, debt, and substance abuse. The harsh reality for American veterans is not a pleasant topic, particularly when we want to honor their victories. But to fully support these brave people, it’s a discussion that we need to face. On Veteran’s Day, think about what you can do to help and honor the people who have given so much for us.
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