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by Tom Pastore, ©2014

(Nov. 7, 2014) — While some people are still debating who won in the recent elections and why, we are being reminded on all the various forms of modern communications that Veterans Day will soon be upon us. The reasons are not to remind us to pay homage to those who protected our rights and freedoms and who now live amongst us once again. Nor are the communications to tell us the many ways we could and should seek out our Veterans and assist them in the ways that may make them feel at home again. We are told it is Veterans Day (soon) in America, so we can BUY all the discounted furniture, appliances, mattresses, automobiles,  and all those other “great deals” that self-absorbed business folks want to offer us at 20, 30, or 40% off!! I have never been able to grasp how this is “honoring” men and women of America who left all their furniture and automobiles at home so they could present to their fellow Americans one of the greatest sacrifices that we can imagine. Citizens who felt it was necessary to go on foreign soil to defend and protect the rights of all Americans are now having their honor bartered, on Veterans Day, for the cost of a mattress or a dishwasher!

Where have we gone so wrong? Businesses should shut down on this day and stop what they are doing to pay respect to the neighbor, friend, employee, or brother who came back to an America that was just too busy, too consumed with all the delights of freedom, that her people couldn’t take the time to welcome back those we now call Veterans. These select Americans toward whom we should be so humble and respectful were able to stop what they were doing and go to fight and defend an America that can’t wait to pick up the daily flyer to see what they can buy at a great discount on Veterans Day!

Is it really that hard to refrain from our daily gluttonous desire to go into debt and buy, buy, buy on a day that we should be performing some sort of sacrifice and seeking a way to help these abandoned and forgotten Veterans? Has Veterans Day become more of an obligatory performance by Americans then one of sincerity? I have to pose this question when I consider the following:

  • Every day in America, including Veterans Day, 22 Military Veterans commit suicide.  This nightmarish trail of death increases all the time, ever since the days of Vietnam. Seventy percent of those Veterans are men over 50 years of age. Is it possible that over the years we walked by one of these troubled individuals on our way to one of those “holiday” $ Sales $? Maybe if we stopped to talk to one of them, we could have made a difference. Loneliness, abandonment, and feeling like a stranger in your own country are some of the first demons these Veterans have to deal with, while the at-home American concerns himself with all the opportunities America has to offer.
  • On any given day — yes, even on Veterans Day — we can find an average of 200,000 Veterans living on the streets or in the woods of America. We don’t call them Veterans because we don’t bother to ask. We recognize them only as homeless people as we rush to one of our daily delights offered by a free nation! Estimates from the National Homeless Coalition say that up to 400,000 Veterans are homeless for some part of each passing year. This outrage has only gotten worse as history writes shorter and shorter paragraphs about the soldiers of America and their enormous sacrifice!
  • Forty-five percent suffer from mental illness, and half have substance abuse problems. America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  More than 67% served our country for at least three years.  Forty-seven per cent of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam Era. Can you imagine that almost half of the 200,000 to 400,000 Homeless Veterans that live on our streets on any given day are Veterans of a War from 50 YEARS AGO???!

Hundreds of thousands of Veterans live next to us, but we never reach out to them or talk to them as they suffer in silence from “Post-Traumatic Stress”/combat fatigue.

How can we as Americans pretend we are honoring the living soldiers of today (on Veterans Day) when we are ignoring them during our day-to-day lives, enjoying all that America has to offer, compliments of those (the American Veterans!!) who went to defend rights and freedoms that we devour on a daily basis here at home.  We are repelled and revolted when we hear how our government has failed Veterans when it comes to needed medical care and deserved combat benefits.  How sad that we cannot practice what we demand of those in government. We forget that we are the government, and we can do a better example of caring, at all levels, than the “business-as-usual,” self-absorbed performance we have been practicing!

The day is long overdue for America to consider that some future (potential) Veterans may just say NO. What is the incentive for them to protect a citizenry that cannot comprehend what sacrifice is because they refuse to show that they are ready to sacrifice for their fellow American, the Veteran?

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