Since the 11th hour of the 11th day of the the 11th month of 1918, we have recognized what was originally called Armistice Day. Following the Korean War, November 11th became Veterans Day dedicated to veterans of all wars.
We veterans, some of us members of the Army Public Affairs Association going back 50 years to Vietnam, can all be proud of our service and the oath we took to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. In the past 14 years, there has been a huge increase of veterans from a new generation who volunteered to take up arms and serve our Nation in harm's way.
The majority of Americans don't understand that kind of commitment to selfless service. There is also a lack of understanding and appreciation of the needs of too many veterans who continue to need our help and support.
We recently posted a 3-part blog on PTSD and public affairs professionals. Their stories are only a small tip of the iceberg. I'm reminded of a young man, panhandling on a street right in the middle of offices of defense industries and government in the national capitol region. He was obviously unbathed and unwell. I stopped partly because I recognized a fellow soldier and I noticed that he had a high tech leg prosthesis. After a short conversation, I learned that he was a veteran from Iraq, discharged from Walter Reed, "lost" and addicted to pain killers. He wanted to get home to West Virginia where his discharge papers and military records were but he needed money and didn't seem to know how to get there.
I contacted a team of business execs, many veterans themselves, who were on a mission to hire and help wounded warriors. It didn't work out in this case because the young man disappeared before help could reach him. But it made me think about the many veterans who do need help, from someone who understands the culture they came from, their motivation for service and the enormous challenges facing them now that they have been medically retired or discharged.
Suzanne's blog postings point to some of the challenges many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan carry with them, some visible, but many not so. On this Veterans Day, I salute you for your service and I hope you will find a way to reach out and lend a hand or an understanding ear to those veterans who may be lost.
It is also appropriate to remember the significance of Veterans Day for the 21.8 million veterans in the U. S. Armed Forces. What better way than to post this poem written by John McCrae, a Canadian surgeon who learned that his friend had been killed in battle.
Flanders Fields by John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The words are poignant for any soldier no matter what generation.
Doug Coffey, APAA President