Remembering to Remember

Veterans Need More Than Just One Day of Respect and Support to Ease Their Struggles

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We have come a long way since 1954 when Armistice Day was officially renamed to Veterans Day. This change, of course, symbolized our country's dedication in honoring not only the men and women who served in WWI, but those who were currently serving in WWII, with the likelihood that there would be more veterans to come.

And come they have.

Today they return in the thousands after multiple tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world. And even though they are much fewer in number, and causalities pale in comparison, there is something to be said of Veterans Day today, and the tradition of welcoming our troops home.

It's true the warriors of America's past wars showed us what it meant to fight and die for our country. Yet they didn't show us how to deal with multiple deployments in the face of endless terrorism. They didn't show us how to dig our way out of not having a strong local community of veterans, and I won't mention the cowardness of our enemy who make falling asleep at night seem like playing a game of peek-a-boo with Osama Bin Laden.

My point is we're on edge. We're worried about those still fighting; we're trying to find ourselves and other vets; and we're seeking the care and treatment we need without feeling like it's a threat to our warrior ethos.

We often hear today by many that every day is Veterans Day. Is it? If it were, surely 18 of us wouldn't be killing ourselves every day, 10,000 of us wouldn't be calling for help every month, and certainly the Secretary of the VA's answer in preventing such tragedy wouldn't beg the question by insisting on the challenge of it all.

Veterans Day, traditionally, has meant that we remember those who served, celebrate the lives of those who survived and teach our children how to live under the freedoms they have granted.

Today, however, remembrance for them is not only tied to their valor on the battlefield, but chosen methods in their bedrooms. We're losing veterans at an alarming rate right here in our communities, and while we look to connect their deaths to combat with slogans like, "the war comes home" and the "invisible wounds of war," defenses against such attacks, namely being around other veterans, aren't around to help.

We're distracted, nearly dumbfounded by just how close the wars have come to aggravate our peaceful society. We took the fight overseas and have assumed the sands and mountains are where it stays, neglecting strategies for the veterans' new mission in coming home.

Today's Veterans Day calls on us, like the lonesome shoe salesman Alfred King did in 1953 as he urged the country to honor the tens of thousands of returning servicemen from America's current crisis in WWII.

The current rate of suicides and the rising number of extreme cases of PTSD are today's equivalent of those thousands of vets, and the demand that we reconsider a better way to pay tribute to them is just as necessary.

This doesn't mean giving us a new day or simply renaming it, rather: The mission of coming home demands that we be with other veterans, not in merely "coping" with ourselves and the world we live in, but in gaining new perspective. To learn the language of the new mission we're on, together.

With it, we have a better opportunity to pierce through the crisis that has become the IED of coming home. The kind of improvisation that, if not handled thoughtfully, can be no less explosive than the kind that took our friends in combat. If you want to honor, pay tribute and celebrate veterans today, we must focus on helping them build local veteran communities, in addition to beefing up VA care and resources.

We need this opportunity to make friendships with those who know us, seek advice from those who can help us and observe the leadership of those who came home before us.

My battalion commander would always say before heading out on patrol: "Nothing is what it is until it is proven to be what it is, it is only what it appears to be."

While Veterans Day presently appears to be a day that we honor and remember our returning heroes, until suicides decrease and the resources are given to help us build lasting veteran communities across the United States, we're celebrating something else, other than a Veterans Day.

Tags: CONDUCT, STUDENT CONDUCT HEARINGS


Ryan Berg is a UC Berkeley student and a veteran. Reply to [email protected]



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