I usually write this monthly column about natural health, but this month I want to instead pay tribute to, and focus on, the United States veteran. According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, veterans make up only 7% of the U.S. population.
Veterans Day is November 11th and Thanksgiving Day is November 23rd. Amongst other things, let’s be thankful for our veterans who have sacrificed so much for the many freedoms we enjoy. With all of our flaws, America is still the greatest country on earth and part of that is because our service men and women have worked to make it so.
Men and women join the military for a variety of reasons. In the past, some joined only because they were drafted. Many joined after 9-11 as patriots wanting to protect the country from those intent on destroying us. Some join for a steady income or the educational opportunities, both within their service and after discharge. Some join for the structure and discipline.
I joined the military back in the 70s, in the heat of the Vietnam war. My brother had already been drafted; I was in nursing school. I joined as a patriot to care for our soldiers in Vietnam; I joined to see the world; I joined for the GI Bill to help pay for my college nursing degree. Whatever the reason, I am thankful for each and every man and woman willing to serve.
I was in the Army for less than three years and most of that time was spent in school. I was fortunate. I was not exposed to the trauma of combat nor the continual uprooting of family or long deployments.
My gratitude and respect is to those who served in battle and were exposed to trauma in all its forms – loss of limbs, exposure to toxins, separation from loved ones and loss of comrades. Many others experienced the moving and uprooting of their families and the long separations from spouse and children.
My plea is for each of us to thank our veterans and support them for their service and if needed – in their recovery and reentry into society.
We’ve all heard the news, the horror stories at the VA hospitals…and some of them are true. I worked as a nurse in 3 different VA hospitals in 3 different states after my discharge from the Army. There were some excellent nurses, doctors and support personnel. There were also some worthless employees that couldn’t be gotten rid of because of the bureaucracy.
Our veterans deserve better. Yes, some veterans are drug addicts and alcoholics; some who have experienced the trauma of war medicate themselves to numb their memories. Not all veterans can cope with the trauma of war. My brother who served in Vietnam and my first husband who served on the front lines as a medic in Korea and Vietnam both came home with emotional trauma but were able to deal with it and go back to life as usual. Not all veterans can. Unless we walk in their shoes, we may never be able to fully understand.
Twenty-two veterans commit suicide each day. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans sometime during their life. As many as 10 percent of Gulf veterans and 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in any given year. Many veterans have other health problems triggered by, or as a result of, their service.
In addition to the emotional pain experienced by many veterans, physical pain is also a significant challenge. Loss of limbs, repeated surgeries, back injuries, intense rehabilitation and metal plates for broken bones are just some of the conditions generating the physical pain.
All of these experiences and conditions impact a veteran’s quality of life. In honor of Veterans Day, let’s choose to recognize this reality. Find a veteran or active military person and give them a hug, a gift, a thank you note or a handshake. If you catch them filling up their car at the gas station, put the fill-up on your card. If you are behind them at the grocery store, offer to pay their bill. If you find a soldier in uniform at the airport when they are buying snacks or drinks for the flight – pick up the tab.
Be creative and do whatever your heart tells you to do in honor of Veterans Day. And when Thanksgiving Day rolls around, remember to thank a veteran again.
Marge Roberts, BSN, MSHP, DAHom
President/CEO, Newton Homeopathics/AACH