What it means to truly honor our Veterans

National holidays are a time for remembrance, or at least they’re meant to be. More often than not, sadly, they’re reduced to days for cookouts and free days off from work. Who doesn’t like burgers and hot dogs, or a lazy day without having to get dressed, though? We all love it. The problem is, it’s not the purpose of days like Memorial Day, Independence Day, or Veteran’s Day. These days exist to honor a memory of an important part of this Nation’s legacy.

Independence Day is our day to remember this Nation’s original veterans who guaranteed that our separation from tyranny would be successful and we would have freedom in our hands, to defend for generations to come. Veterans Day is the special day where we honor the memory and legacy of those who have answered the call ever since.

Yet, something is still wrong in this Nation. Veterans face a lot of problems in this country and it’s a heartbreaking tragedy that they endure a great deal of things they do. Like honoring the fallen means more than just waving a flag at the Memorial Day parade, honoring all those who have served is more than just slapping a “Support The Troops” and similar pro-veteran bumper stickers on our vehicles.

It’s time we have that uncomfortable conversation about how this country treats our military.

The San Jose Mercury News had an unspeakably sad article discussing the number of veteran suicides in this country as a result to the effects of their service, including suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In making note of the fact that twenty-two veterans commit suicide each day, the article has mentions a related survey:

Almost everyone who has served in the military now knows someone — often several someones — who suffers from disabling depression. Some end their own lives. Members of the IAVA were asked in a survey last year if they knew at least one post-9/11 veteran who had attempted suicide, and 47 percent answered yes. Another 40 percent knew at least one veteran who had died by suicide.

The article also goes on to discuss former United States Navy Master at Arms Daniel Faddis, a young twenty-eight year old man who put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. He was a mere month away from marrying his fiancee.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Faddis told his parents in 2012 he attempted to seek help from the VA, but was told that he could not be seen for more than a year.

The tragedy of veteran treatment doesn’t stop with Faddis.

Back in 2014, the Associated Press covered a story related to the growing VA scandal about veteran neglect, which noted eighteen veterans dying while being stuck on a waitlist. The AP presented a heartbreaking picture of the situation’s reality:

The 18 veterans who died were among 1,700 veterans identified in a report last week by the VA’s inspector general as being “at risk of being lost or forgotten.” The investigation also found broad and deep-seated problems with delays in patient care and manipulation of waiting lists throughout the sprawling VA health care system, which provides medical care to about 9 million veterans and family members

Is it acceptable that individuals are going to die because of combat-related conditions or self-inflicted injury? Is it even remotely tolerable that individuals like Faddis will be largely unknown to many until he decides life is too much to even marry the love of his life and end his suffering with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head?

There’s also the issue of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal, which saw a reputable institution overwhelmed and as a result, losing control of their job. In noting the importance of the hospital’s responsibility for the most seriously injured, the Los Angeles Times also discusses the strain placed by the Iraq conflict:

Army Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, commander of the prestigious Walter Reed Army Medical Center, said the number of outpatient soldiers reached a high of 872 in summer 2005, up from about 100 before the war, leaving the military and medical staff responsible for monitoring their well-being unable to keep on top of critical cases.

Why are we even creating more veterans to be neglected if the government cannot handle the responsibility of the existing ones? The federal government has been a complete disgrace.

In modern America and the era of globalized politics, our Nation’s military is often sent to be involved in numerous conflicts that have no direct relation to our welfare or existence. Instead, they’re used as pawns in conflicts that will help reinforce political careers and advance false political narratives.

This was meant to be prevented by our Founders, who made it a constitutional requirement that Congress debate proposed interventions and then vote on the proposal after. The Constitution is clear in Clause 11 of Article 1, Section 8, which states “[The Congress shall have the power] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”

While the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has power over the military, the approval of Congress to engage in war is required by law.

Despite all the conflicts our country has engaged in however, the last formally declared war was World War 2. Since then, Congress has been growing soft on its constitutional responsibilities and as time goes on, allowing the President to absorb their responsibilities to the law and our soldiers.

Is our military benefiting from this shift? The evidence is a clear no.

The National Center for PTSD makes note of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder rates among three specific war eras:

Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.

Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.

Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.

Among those suffering, twenty two veterans are taking their own lives every single day.

While war itself is sometimes necessary and the nature of bureaucracy means that sometimes cases do slip through the cracks, the level of the neglect at hand is completely unacceptable. If we can’t afford to take care of those who honorably put on the uniform to serve our Nation, then why send them into conflicts that aren’t absolutely necessary? It shows a clear level of disrespect for the military.

This is unacceptable.

When our soldiers return to seek help, they are often neglected and forgotten. Did they forget about America when they risked their lives to fight for our country? Did they forget us when they put themselves in harm’s way, often resulting in physical or psychological injuries that remind them daily of what they endured?

The answer is “NO.” So why is our Nation showing such extreme disregard and neglect for those who serve?

In a 2012 article I wrote on Veteran’s Day, I discussed my experiences personally with veterans. An experience I will never forget for the rest of my life is an afternoon when I was younger, when I spent quite some time discussing life with a World War 2 veteran. He was, in addition to being an honorable veteran, a great human being who had a clear respect for life and love for those within his own. We talked about the great details such as war experiences down to the everyday points we take for granted everyday, like waking up to our significant other and having the joy of raising young children.

Since this man served, I have had family who have served in the military. My father’s father served in Korea and Vietnam. Though he passed away when I was a young toddler, I have heard stories from my family about the kind of human being he was. My aunts and uncle told me about his love for history and politics, my father has filled in the later years various life stories, and my grandmother has even told me about his experiences at war. From the incredible picture my family has painted for me, he was great man.

Fortunately, I have had the privilege and honor to know my mother’s father, who served in Vietnam, over the course of my life. My grandmother, aunts and mother have all shared stories with me about the kind of person he has been to them in life. I also know the role model he has been to me in life, and the fond memories I have in life of him, and as well as the ones I look forward to creating as our lives continue on. I have a deep admiration and respect for the role he has played in the lives of my family and myself, as well.

My cousin, who has really been like a brother to me, enlisted straight out of high school. While he did not see combat, he was enlisted a time when our country was involved in multiple conflicts abroad, including Afghanistan and Iraq. Throughout the years, he has regularly been there for me through hard times and also been someone to share the good times with. Like any brother, we’ve had our brotherly disagreements, but he’s always been there. More so, my young children already see the the type of human being he is and love him as much the rest of us in the family do. Children are excellent judges in character.

While we all forge our own legacies in life, everyone from my grandmothers to my parents and their siblings, as well as myself, have received a great contribution to our own lives from these individuals. They are incredible human beings.

So to think about the treatment of our veterans and how careless our government views engaging in conflicts, it breaks my heart for personal reasons. While I only had two young years to know my father’s father, there was always the chance that number would have been zero. My mother’s father has done so much for my family and myself included. What if he was met with an early demise because of these conflicts? Or there’s the issue with my cousin, who at any time could have faced deployment and become another statistic claimed by an undeclared conflict.

It legitimately breaks my heart on a personal level. But beyond just myself, this is something that should concern all Americans.

So on this Veteran’s Day, let’s remember that honoring our veterans means more than just slapping a bumper sticker on our vehicles or putting up a flag. While both are symbolic of the Nation they defended, our veterans deserve more than just ceremonial theatrics. They deserve respect and certainly do not deserve to be neglected.

We have legislative representation at a State and Federal level, and have a direct role in shaping our country’s policies by the people we elect. Our veterans made the decision to serve our country and did so with honor and dignity. Anything short of showing the same respect for them is wrong.

Let us not forget this Veteran’s Day. And to those who have served, thank you.

UPDATE: After publication of this article, I came across an excellent article from fellow BDN blogger Jim LaPierre, writer of “Recovery Rocks”, who raises similar concerns and points. Please also give “Veteran’s Day: Making Good on our Debt of Gratitude” a read, as well. Thank you.

Chris Dixon

About Chris Dixon

Chris Dixon is a libertarian-leaning writer. In addition to writing "Undercover Porcupine", he is also the Managing Editor for The Liberty Conservative and writes for Cleat Geeks and Medium.