Nov. 11 is Veterans Day and chances are, some of us will see uniform-clad men and women marching down the streets of our communities.
These are individuals who have put their lives on hold to answer our country’s call – whether or not they, or we, agreed with the rationale behind a particular military venture.
In many cases, returning veterans are coming home to find their jobs gone, their homes in foreclosure, and their health-care benefits insufficient, despite the promises received when they enlisted.
This is a shanda.
While, in the words of one veteran (see page 6), the American public has matured since the days of Vietnam and no longer scorns individuals who served in unpopular wars, in other ways we continue to show disrespect.
Shipping thousands of Chanukah candles to Iraq and Afghanistan is a lovely gesture, but keeping in constant touch with soldiers overseas and actively reaching out to those who return says even more.
The reintegration into society of those who have seen warfare is a slow and difficult process. Averting our eyes from their problems (thankful, no doubt, that we have not had to endure them) is unfair.
The recent midterm elections were loud, boisterous affairs, centering too often on name-calling and accusations and the frequent questioning of political opponents’ patriotism and love of country. Ironically, love of country is best demonstrated by working together to uplift that country, not by working against one another – a message that has been lost in the political madness that has overtaken Washington, D.C.
(Saying, as did one prominent party leader, that his party’s main goal should be ensuring that the current administration is a one-term presidency – rather than, say, that the economy should be rebuilt – exemplifies this paradox.)
At the very least, shouldn’t all sides agree that the United States must uphold its obligations to those who fight in its name?
Groups like the Jewish War Veterans and the Vietnam Veterans of American are working actively to secure those rights, aggressively advocating on issues important to returning members of the armed forces. Among other things, they are seeking full access by veterans to health care, identification of the injuries and illnesses these individuals incurred during military service, and accountability as regards prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Unlike the recent elections, these efforts are nonpartisan and should be controversy-free. We should support them.