Every day is a day to honor veterans
Veterans Day – and, my favorite, the Marine Corps birthday – are gone for this year, having occurred on back-to-back days earlier this month.
However, the themes – honoring those who serve and have served – should not be compartmentalized to a couple days in November, or on Memorial Day and Independence Day when much of the public is thinking about family barbecues or cooling off at the pool or beach in the July heat.
When these holidays come around, the names of familiar conflicts, battles and now-famous places come alive like recruits at reveille: World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Tet, Battle of the Bulge, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan.
During these times, you also hear more about the organizations who fight for veterans’ services and respect: American Legion, VFW, DAV, VVA, Tuskegee Airmen and Buffalo Soldiers.
No one wants war and conflict, but America must know how and stand ready to defend our borders and our allies when necessary. Which is why we must provide even more support to those who have taken up the mantle of America’s defense.
Every month should have at least one day dedicated to veterans.
Many veterans are fine after the visible or emotional scars of conflict have gone away, going on to successful professional and entrepreneurial careers. Others bounce through treatment programs, jobs, families and, hopefully, find “normal” lives. Others just want to let the past stay there. Some become too familiar with brown bottles and drugs. Many gather to raise money and tell stories, like they do at the Living Military Museum at Richard’s Coffee Shop in Mooresville.
Then, there are the thousands of homeless veterans.
According to Veterans Inc. and other sources, more than 70,000 veterans are homeless on any given night and up to 800,000 are homeless for some time in a year. One-third of all homeless men are veterans, and even though veterans make up 12 percent of the population, they represent 26 percent of homeless adults.
The number of homeless Vietnam-era veterans exceeds the number who died during that war. Statistics also show many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are homeless.
That scenario doesn’t make sense.
I do, however, offer a tip of the cover to active duty, reservists and volunteers who get up dark-early to adorn hundreds of thousands of tombstones nationwide with new American flags during “veterans” holidays. A similar salute to the hundreds of communities who honor those active-duty service members and veterans, living and dead.
And, a thunderous applause to those companies and organizations that are hiring veterans and engaged in efforts to find them jobs, training and medical and mental help. It wasn’t always that way, but it’s happening in growing numbers.
If you’re looking for veterans, remember this: they look like you and me. Veterans come in all colors, ages, religions and backgrounds – from suburban niche towns, rural farms and urban tough spots. Many foreign-born men and women wear or have worn our nation’s uniforms, and some did heroic things.
For years, the theme for Vietnam veterans has been a simple, but deserving, “Welcome Home,” since homecoming ceremonies during those turbulent years were few, if at all.
Then and now, for all veterans, a grateful “Welcome Home” will suffice, but I ask you to read the words spoken by Cornelius Mayor Pro Tem Lynette Rinker during the town’s Veterans Day ceremony.
“Our heroes are ordinary people, who have done extraordinary things. So, remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say ‘thank you.’”
One holiday I didn’t mention was Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on Dec. 7. There are only a few of those veterans left.
Glenn Proctor, a former Marine Corps gunnery sergeant and Vietnam veteran, is executive editor of Lake Norman Publications.