It's November 11. Veterans Day. This is the day we set aside every year to celebrate the sacrifices that our veterans have made in defending our country.
All 535 members of Congress are going to take to Twitter to express how much we owe to the veterans. Some might even go to the trouble of issuing a press release, written, of course, by some anonymous staff member since the officer-holders themselves will doubtless be too busy (though one suspects guys like Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln would have found the time). Needless to say, none of this will make the slightest bit of difference in the life of a single veteran.
Around the country, well-meaning citizens will fly the American flag and some might even wear a yellow ribbon. but most will see it merely as a day of sales at mattress stores and, if they're lucky, a day off from work. As happens each year, people will confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day or Armed Forces Day and forget whether November 11 is the a day we are supposed to honor people who died, people who served in the past but are still alive, or people who are currently serving. The fact that this is a source of confusion has always greatly annoyed me. But I suppose one of the freedoms the veterans fought for is the freedom to not care about public holidays if one so chooses.
I'm all for flying the American flag on national holidays, which I do as a matter of course, and I have no problem with wearing a yellow ribbon as a statement of support. What troubles me on Veterans Day is that people seem to think that making such symbolic gestures allows them to say that they "support the troops" and therefore absolves them from doing anything to actually help them. These men and women fought for our country, putting their lives on the line, and many have returned home with horrific injuries that will impact them for the rest of their lives. They deserve more from their country, whose freedom they have defended, then symbolic gestures and empty statements.
What is something concrete which can be done to help veterans? Allow me to make a suggestion. On this Veterans Day, I urge every individual reading this blog to become a financial supporter of the nonprofit organization Homes For Our Troops.
Founded in 2004, Homes For Our Troops has a simple, straightforward, and achievable mission. It seeks to build specially adapted houses for soldiers who have suffered serious wounds in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as the loss of limbs, paralysis, or traumatic brain injury. These wounds are so severe that characteristics of an ordinary house which would be unnoticed by most people, such as the width of a doorway or the floor-plan of a bathroom, can be severely limiting. By building these specially adapted houses, Homes For Our Troops allows returning veterans who have suffered severe wounds to start the process of recovery and reestablish a life of independence and self-sufficiency.
Homes For Our Troops provides these homes to the wounded veterans mortgage-free. Coming out of the military with severe injuries and facing the challenge of finding a paying job to take care of themselves and their families, the last thing these veterans need is the pressure of making a mortgage payment. No one wants to live under the fear of losing their home. Considering the sacrifice these soldiers have made in defense of their country, removing the pressure of making a mortgage payment every month seems to be the least we can do.
These kinds of houses are not cheap. Indeed, their average cost is more than $400,000. But these men and women deserve it. They risked their lives in place like Baghdad and Fallujah in Iraq and in Helmand province and Kandahar province in Afghanistan, which most of us know only as place names spoken quickly by talking heads on cable news networks. They have faced war in a way the rest of us never will. They did it for us. The least we can do is put forward some of the money to help build the houses that will enable them to live as normal a life as possible.
(I feel the need to state at this point that I am not officially associated with Homes For Our Troops in any way. I am a monthly financial donor, as I hope you will become, but that is the limit of my involvement with the organization.)
There are bitter political divisions about whether it was right or wrong to invade Iraq in 2003, just as there have been bitter political divisions about whether our forces should have remained in Afghanistan after Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. These debates shouldn't matter when it comes to these veterans. Their country called upon them, they stepped up to the plate, and they made sacrifices for us far greater than the vast majority of us will ever be called upon to make. A small monthly donation to Homes For Our Troops is the very least we can do for them.
Abraham Lincoln, who knew a thing or two about the burden of ordering men to their deaths, said, "Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears their country's cause. Honor also to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as best he can, the same cause."
We must heed Lincoln's words. We have an obligation to care for our brothers and sisters who have suffered debilitating wounds in the distant lands of Iraq and Afghanistan in defense of our nation's freedom. Please join me in becoming a regular donor to Homes For Our Troops. The veterans deserve it.