NEARLY EVERY COMMUNITY has one. A veterans memorial. I appreciate that public recognition of military service in communities from rural to urban. Yet, acknowledgment of our veterans must stretch beyond public memorials.
Today, Veterans Day, I pause to personally thank the individuals who have served our country. That’s important to remember—individual service and sacrifice. I expect most of you can rattle off names of those in your circle who engaged in combat or other military work. They left their homes, their everyday lives, to answer the call of duty.
I feel gratitude to individuals who, either by draft or by choice, stood strong for democracy. Words like courage, commitment, strength, fortitude…filter into my thoughts when I think of our veterans.
But I also think of the physical, emotional and mental challenges too many combat veterans face post-war. I can never comprehend the pain, the trauma, the grief experienced by those who fought in war zones. I only know how my own father, an infantryman in the Korean War, battled the demons of war during his lifetime. That glimpse was enough to elicit deep concern within me.
We are making strides in recognizing and treating post traumatic stress disorder, for example. Not until near his 2003 death was my dad aware of his PTSD. He never got the intervention and help he needed upon arriving home from war. I’m thankful for the help available today, although I expect sometimes it’s not easily-accessible and not nearly enough.
Suicide among veterans remains high. After hearing a few of my dad’s stories of war atrocities and killing, I recognize the emotional and mental tolls on health. Returning to everyday life after experiencing the traumas of war brings challenges civilians will never fully understand. We need to be there for our veterans in ways that matter—support, compassion, care, understanding—with gratitude in our hearts.
TELL ME: If you’re a veteran, what would you like to hear today, Veterans Day? How can we as a country better honor and help you? If you know a veteran, what have you done to honor and help veterans?
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling