EDITORIAL: Make this a special day by thanking all veterans

MGN Online

We googled “Veterans Day” and the first hit was a tutorial on “Veterans Day discounts,” the second was “Military benefits.”

The real stuff about our military veterans came on down the page and beyond, but there were still a lot of advisories on where to get the best deals on Veterans Day.

Like so many of America’s special days each year, Veterans Day has slowly morphed into a commercial opportunity for retailers.

Most veterans know Nov. 11 was chosen as Veterans Day to commemorate the official ending of World War I. The formal declaration of the cessation of hostilities took place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year.

Lots of folks are confused about the distinctions between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Here’s the crux of the matter — Memorial Day honors those who lost their lives in service to the country; Veterans Day honors all those who served, period.

Major issues these days for military veterans are similar to what they’ve been since men, and then women, put on the uniform — stress, anxiety, post-traumatic disorders, health care. It’s the same stuff even non-veterans face, but for veterans it can be exponentially worse. For example, suicides among veterans and active-duty soldiers is the highest it’s been since the Department of Veterans Affairs started keeping records. More active-duty service men and women killed themselves last year than were killed in combat. The VA studied the issue from 1999-2010, and over that period military suicides were occurring at the rate of one every hour or so of every day.

The military branches recruit more than 175,000 young Americans a year, and the core of the military’s sales pitch to people seeking a meaningful direction in their lives is that their government will take care of those who serve. The frightening suicide rate butts against that pledge.

Multiple studies reveal there is a direct link between being deployed

to a war zone and specific health and emotional problems, such as psychiatric disorders and other anxiety and depressive disorders; alcohol abuse; accidental death in the early years after deployment; suicide in the early years after deployment; marital and family conflict.

That just scratches the surface of what can happen after leaving the military, and it circles back to the VA, whose annual budget is larger than the combined budgets of the State Department, Department of Homeland Security and the entire U.S. intelligence community.

And it clearly is not enough, if more American soldiers are dying by suicide than are being killed in hostile action. And health experts say that problem is likely to only worsen in the coming years.

All of which provides background for our recommendation that tomorrow, as you spend your day either at the office, shop or plant, or preparing a family barbecue outing, or spending some quality time — and your dollars — at local stores, take a few moments to consider the promises our government has made to military veterans, and make a promise to yourself to support veterans in any way you can.

A good place to start is find a veteran, shake his or her hand, and say, “Thanks for your service.”

Santa Maria (Calif.) Times