November 11, 2021, was the official holiday known as “Veterans Day.” Ostensibly, we are told that this day is to remember veterans’ service to the country and how we owe them our gratitude and help as a nation.
It is this notion that spurred the creation of a federal bureau to distribute and administer veterans’ “benefits” that were deemed appropriate to award those who had given service to the nation in any of the branches of the military. This ideal reaches back in history to the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, but it wasn’t until the last decades of the 20th century that it morphed into the Veterans Administration as a cabinet-level office.
Within my family history there exists a legacy of service within the military stretching from the service of my biological father, who passed on when I was very young, in World War II and Korea, through both of my stepfather’s who also served in Korea, myself and my three brothers, the oldest of whom served in the infantry in the Vietnam War. He and one other of my brothers have now passed on.
Each of us, in one manner or another, has been the recipient of government benefits provided through the VA or its past manifestations. I state this to show my own bit of bias in this area. However, I come to this writing with three questions that I believe are essential to ask at this time and period of our history.
First of all, I ask whether or not this concept of the nation as a whole “owes” something to those who have honorably served America in the military. In other words, is it right and fair to expect the government to provide the benefits it does to our veterans?
Secondly, I ask if our government is at least adequately addressing the needs of our veterans today. That is, does America provide the assistance that veterans need in our modern world?
Third, I ask the most basic of questions, “Who really cares about the needs of veterans, especially those in great distress in our country?”
Does America owe our veterans anything beyond spoken gratitude?
This question is almost never asked among our citizens as a whole as the answer is generally that yes, this is a good idea and it is something our government should be doing. I believe that most Americans today would agree with this sentiment.
However, this was not always the case. I can remember the days of my own service more than four decades past when a good portion of the nation did not think military service was a righteous idea, especially during the Vietnam War and its immediate aftermath.
When I enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1973, the War was technically over, and thus I never served, as my older brother did, directly in the battlegrounds of Vietnam. However, I did meet a few of those soldiers who returned from Vietnam and also observed how they were treated by those whose protests across the country forced the War to a premature conclusion.
It is no secret that most of them were treated with anything but gratitude. Instead, they were often branded as “war criminals” and called “baby killers” even as they arrived back in their homeland. I am quite certain that many of those war protesters would vehemently disagree that we owed these veterans anything except a jail cell and they deserved any spite thrown their way.
That perception has largely, and thankfully, been consigned to the ash heap of history among the vast majority of Americans today. It is encouraging to me to see that most vets today, once their status is revealed, are greeted with “Thank you for your service,” rather than having hate, scorn, and derision hurled their way.
But what about the obligation that the nation has to vets? Is the government that is charged with providing the benefits to veterans at least doing an adequate job?
Is the American government fulfilling its obligation to veterans?
The answer to this question is, it depends on who you ask? If you ask the officials in the VA, their answer would be an unqualified “Yes!”
Of course, this is expected because, unlike those in the active military whose service is usually temporary and almost always is placed in peril should the soldier commit any offense, those in the VA are entrenched in government positions as bureaucrats. It is almost impossible to remove a government bureaucrat even for grave offenses that anyone else would be skewered and sent packing for the same kind of act as a private employee.
Moreover, because they depend on taxpayer funding for their work, the VA must justify not only the amount of spending they currently use but make a sales pitch to receive even more funding in the future. They are certainly not going to highlight their own shortcomings.
We are witnessing this principle in action concerning one Dr. Anthony Fauci, a lifelong government bureaucrat who is getting away with murder and receiving a higher annual salary than the President to boot! With each and every detestable lie he has told that has been exposed, Fauchi has backtracked and excused his heinous acts and tried to justify himself and even exalt himself at every turn.
The VA itself provides a number of benefits to all military veterans in exchange for their honorable service. These include everything from VA guaranteed home loans and generous aid for college tuition to death benefits for surviving spouses and military funerals.
For vets like myself, this is akin to the arrangements made for old-fashioned indentured servitude. That is, I, the ‘indentured servant,’ agreed to serve my government ‘master’ for a limited period of years in exchange for my freedom at the end of the term and whatever benefits are contained in the agreement.
Once these terms are fulfilled, there is no more obligation on either party’s behalf. However, for those vets who served and incurred injury, mental or physical, during their time of service, and are in distress, a greater need exists and the government now incurs a greater obligation to render assistance.
I am not going to give figures from the VA about what they are or aren’t doing monetarily to help homeless vets, or disabled vets, or others in great need. Instead, I will simply point out that any administration who believes it is right to offer individuals who broke American laws to enter the country 450k apiece rather than prioritizing distressed vets who defended our nation shows that it cares very little for those who gave so much.
Who in America really cares about veterans in distress?
Here is where some good news is needed, and, as usual, it is from the private sector that meaningful aid is brought to veterans in real distress. Because it is the American private citizen who really cares about vets in need, rather than the bureaucratic state.
A prime example (though far from the only one) is the actor Gary Sinise. Through the work of his foundation, he has for many years striven to meet the needs of wounded and disabled veterans and others in need in America.
On this past Veterans Day, Sinise spoke about his foundation’s project to provide homes to wounded and disabled vets. These are homes outfitted to allow disabled vets to navigate and live in the home with greater ease and freedom.
Another serious problem in the veteran community is the increase in suicides, especially in recent years. One health professional, Dr. Keith Ablow, felt a calling to do something to address this problem and took action on Veterans Day of 2020.
As Dr. Ablow explains,
…on average, as many as 22 of our nation’s veterans take their own lives each day. The more I learned of this the more I felt a moral mandate to help draw attention to it and to bring what resources I have to bear to help address it. I thought about my network and reached out to three of the most caring and gifted people I know, each with a particularly unique skill set and network of their own: Former USS Cole Commander Kirk Lippold USN (Ret), longtime philanthropist and business leader William Fidler and noted writer, media consultant and nonprofit management pro Christian Josi. As I expected, each jumped “all-in” and together, we established #HELP22.
The name #HELP22 emerged from the fact that Dr. Ablow, who is a mental health professional, had already begun to offer free mental health counseling to any veteran on the 22nd of every month in 2020. He decided to establish #HELP22 as a way to expand this effort around the nation, and it is helping vets in distress.
One of the most impressive experiences for Dr. Ablow during the time he has been personally counseling has been observing the attitudes of those who have sought his counsel.
Here’s the thing that has really stuck with me from the beginning: Not one person I have spoken with has asked for any sympathy. Not one ounce of self-pity has been expressed. These courageous, commendable men and women have simply wanted to be heard and given tools to manage their struggles and ease their troubled hearts and heads without having to jump through hoops or spend a small fortune to do so.
These are veterans who have witnessed the horrors of war and had to make horrible choices themselves. Some have been direct victims of physical and mental torture by the enemy and others have witnessed unspeakable cruelty inflicted upon civilians by their foes.
Many, if not most, who are driven to commit suicide could be helped to cope and survive and be productive living with and not drowned by their pain. Dr. Ablow has seen that and believes it can be at least one way in which real aid can come to vets in need.
It is Americans like Sinise and Ablow and many others who show their care for vets and demonstrate it by delivering real and substantial aid to them. I contend that in reality, though the government may have an obligation to help vets, it is now and has been for quite a while ill-equipped to do so.
The most efficient and effective help for vets, and any in need, truly comes from the efforts of the private individual and those who are like-minded. It is they whose moral goodness moves them to do what they can that render the best aid, and that is how it has always been and should remain.
It is my hope and prayer that this kind of caring from the hearts of people to other people directly will grow in the future. I believe we need it now, perhaps more than ever before, in America and throughout humanity.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:18 [ESV]