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Thank a veteran everyday – Our view: We’ve done plenty; we should do more

Americans will, we hope, take some time to honor its veterans of military service Nov. 11. It is, after all, the least we can do for a group of women and men to whom we owe so much.
One day, that’s all. But this isn’t a greeting-card holiday. We would hope people would appreciate veterans and the contributions they make toward a free society each and every day. Next time you see a veteran on the street, thank him or her for service to our country. Though they may not say it, most veterans will truly appreciate the notion someone took the time to be thankful to them for serving their country.
We live in an era where many soldiers returning from a faraway land, like Vietnam, were greeted with insults, taunts and accusations. They are beginning to fade away before us. They went to a land many knew nothing about and fought in a war they had no say over. Like it or not, they did their job.
Fast forward to today, soldiers return coming home from a war they had no say over. Many of them volunteered, enlisted for service. Others fulfilled an obligation. They did their job.
They weren’t berated for their service. Fortunately, we have learned something since the 1960s and ‘70s. We have learned a thing or two from our lack of insight. Hopefully, we are better for it.
Whether the veterans of today served in combat or served in peacetime, we owe them a debt of gratitude far greater than one day’s recognition on the 11th day of the 11th month. We owe them gratitude for their service but also the effort to understand, if only a little, what it means to serve.
The men and women who serve in peacetime keep our military prepared. They respond to calls for help, from their fellow citizens in times of natural disaster and from our allies in need around the world.
The soldiers who left the farms, small cities and towns to storm the beaches of France in 1944 and the young men and women of today who defended their country in the Middle East have much in common, even if they are separated by several generations. Their country was threatened, attacked. They answered the call to serve.
They deserve far more than a single day of recognition.
Our military offers young men and women valuable vocational and leadership training. As a society, we get far more back from them than we provide. It is arguable whether or not we provide them the appropriate payback for the portion of their youth they have given their country.
If there is even one veteran who does not receive the quality of care earned, that is one too many. Soldiers returning from the Middle East have waited too long for mental health care. A horrible number of them struggled with anxiety, isolation and depression. Unable to cope, many took their lives in a fight they couldn’t win.
We owe our veterans so much for the blank check they offered their country. Education, vocational training, housing, health care. Fund one less bomber, one less weapon of mass destruction. We have a debt to repay.
All our veterans, no matter when and where they served, are worth it.

- jm