2018-11-03 / Viewpoints

Too many veterans left behind

By Dr. Adam M. Robinson, Jr.

(Dr. Adam M. Robinson Jr. is the director of the VA Maryland Health Care System.)

Nov. 11, 1918 was a historic day of peace, celebrating the end of World War I -- the so-called “war to end all wars.”

But while we have come a long way since Armistice Day, the ravages and destruction of war continue to plague our world and those men and women who sacrificed their bodies, minds and spirits so that we can enjoy prosperity and freedom.

For more than two centuries, our service members have represented, defended and protected our liberty at home and on foreign soil.

We have routinely sent them to the world’s most tormented and conflicted areas. The present-day Global War on Terror, with its sophisticated technological weapons, is no exception.

Across the nation, Veterans Day, as the anniversary of Armistice Day is now known, reminds us to cherish and value the sacrifice and service of those who have worn the cloth of the nation.

The day is observed with ceremonies that demonstrate our appreciation and gratitude to the men and women who served. But if we neglect to go the extra mile by showing compassion and empathy toward veterans during the rest of the year, these widespread expressions of gratitude ring hollow.

Too many of our veterans have already felt the sting of being undervalued.

We sent troops to protect freedom in Korea, an undeclared war that was then referred to as “a police action.” More than 33,000 Americans perished fighting for liberty in a foreign land for people they never met. More than 848,000 returned home.

Korean War veterans sometimes feel as if their service has been overlooked despite their having survived Korea’s bitter winters, sweltering summers and some enduring hellish conditions within prisoner-of-war camps.

Despite the lack of fanfare for returning Korean veterans, who traded military uniforms for work clothes, they too served with honor and distinction.

We also sent troops to Vietnam to preserve freedom and contain Communism. Service members returned from this unpopular war only to be greeted with so much disrespect and disdain that they were forewarned to remove their military uniforms before disembarking their planes.

They, too, served with distinction and honor, and today, we count more than 7 million living Vietnam veterans who deserve our gratitude and respect for answering the call to duty.

On Veterans Day, and every day, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to all our veterans who proudly served in the armed forces. Thank you for being part of a long, unbroken line of men and women who have served this country with distinction.

Thank you for serving on the beaches of Europe, in the jungles of Asia, on the deserts of the Middle East and all over the world. Thank you for serving on the homefront. Thank you for serving in wartime and in peace.

We are humbled by your service, your sense of duty, and most of all, your sacrifices for our liberties.

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