Veteran’s Day | Remembering the Impact of Military Service

Strange.  I am a Veteran and until a few weeks ago I had never thought about what that really means.  Most people would simply answer that it only means someone has served in the military.  It is much more than that, so much more.

My 8 years service was with the Air Force and I was in Vietnam for two tours (it was called a tour I think because a year just seemed way too long).  I looked up some statistics that I would like to share with you.  Over 2 million military personnel served in uniform in Vietnam.  Even though there was a draft in place 2/3 of these men and women had volunteered for duty.  58,148 were killed and of those 61% were younger than 21.  Sobering numbers.  That was my war.

In WWII over 16 million served and an estimated 1 million of those are still living.  292,000 died in that war and their average age was 26. In Korea 6.2 million men and women served and 54,000 paid the ultimate price.  There are approximately 3.9 million Korea Veterans still alive. Millions have served in the Middle East and the death toll continues.

There are approximately 21 million veterans living today.   Many of those having served in the Middle East have returned to fight another battle.  It is estimated that as many as 30% are living with some type of mental health issue ranging from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) to drug and alcohol issues. It is estimated that over 50% of returning female veterans are victims of sexual harassment.  The VA recognized early that their system was not prepared to support those seeking help.  Already at maximum capacity as a result of the Vietnam era veteran, they recruited mental health clinicians, more than doubling staff.  Unfortunately, not all those needing help can bring themselves to ask for it.

It is estimated that as many as 30% of returning veterans will experience PTSD symptoms within 3 to 6 months of returning home.  It is important for family and friends to be vigilant and able to recognize that their soldier is struggling and needs help.  Common signs are depression, sleep disorders, lack of concentration, loss of appetite and hypervigilance.  Encourage them to ask for help and be prepared with resources in your area. 

This brings us back to why we honor these men and women on Veteran’s Day. The majority enlisted to serve their country, it’s that simple.  Some left family and friends or put careers on hold to defend our way of life.  They did not choose the wars, but answered the call to duty to SERVE this nation in whatever fashion they could.  They did not enlist because of the benefits Veterans are promised if they made it back.  They put their lives in the balance for what they believed in.

I have put myself in the habit of thanking the men and women for their service when I recognize them as Veterans.  I would ask that you do that also.  There is another wonderful way to say “thank you for your service” without having to say the words.  Greenlight A Vet is a movement to recognize our military by simply changing one light on the front of our homes to green.

Finally, to our military Veterans past and present and their families, I salute you….”Thank you for your service.” 

Written by a veteran, father, husband, son, and believer in the value of mental health services for our returning service men and women