OPINION – As we observed Memorial Day over the weekend, I ran across a lot of Facebook posts paying homage to those who made the ultimate sacrifice as members of the U.S. military.
Some were touching remembrances of family and friends. Others, of course, were posts pushing a particular political position.
One, however, stood out.
Amid all of the heartfelt tributes was one that pointed out that we have had several generations of veterans who returned from the service with wounds that simply will not heal, who carry physical and emotional scars and are all but forgotten.
We have, of course, the many Vietnam Era veterans who still struggle with their time in the jungle. We have new veterans who have returned with the struggle of dealing with what they saw, what they did, or what happened to them during their time in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We have, as a result of what has taken place in this incursion into the Middle East, a generation of military personnel who have returned with missing limbs and traumatic head injuries because of the treacherous weaponry of this brand of guerilla warfare we just have a terrible time dealing with, particularly the insidious improvised explosive devices, commonly referred to as IEDs.
The world doesn’t do warfare like it once did. During the great wars, it was basically a mano y mano situation, with sides facing off in what would be called traditional warfare. They did it with tanks, cannons, rifles, and occasionally, hand-to-hand combat. Since Korea, however, we have seen the nature of warfare turn into a much different thing with hidden explosives, sniping, acts of terror conducted under cover. We may have the most sophisticated soldiers and weaponry in the world, but all of the sophistication, all of the technological advances in the world, as we have learned, are not terribly effective when somebody is determined enough to sacrifice their own life to kill you.
And, we wonder why our troops come home with injuries that go beyond the physical.
It’s why the Veteran’s Administration stamps its suicide prevention telephone number on just about every piece of paper it sends to veterans.
I was also a bit disappointed to see, among all of the posts, little reference to the women who have sacrificed so much over the years.
As more and more get closer to the front lines, more and more are losing their lives or returning with injuries—physical and emotional—that cannot be completely repaired.
This, of course, is nothing new to me, either. As the husband of a U.S. Navy vet – who was one of the first members of the military injured in the line of duty during the Persian Gulf War as she prepped a battleship for combat – I know of the sacrifices made by women in the military. They were and are no less brave than their male counterparts and, in fact, in many ways probably more courageous because of attitudes within and outside of the military.
We have a new convalescence center in Ivins where veterans can go to ease their broken bodies and broken spirits. Sadly, even though it was only recently dedicated, there are 115 applicants for the 108 beds. The waiting list will surely grow because of the approximately 26,000 veterans living in the region.
I realize we have a Veteran’s Day celebration in November, but I also know that we have people in serious need who need our support.
Look, you don’t need to be a veteran to support the needs of those who served. You don’t need to have a special day to think about the needs of those who have made huge sacrifices. You don’t need a reason to show compassion. You don’t need a reason to hold our government responsible for tending to the needs of those who decided that they would, indeed, go into harm’s way—one way or another—for something they believed in.
At least, you shouldn’t.
No bad days!
- OP-ED: Because they are unforgettable; in memory of Dennis and others like him
- Southern Utah Veterans Home dedicated with full honors; STGnews Videocast and Photo Gallery
- St. George Vet Center aims to be ‘ground zero’ for local veterans
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.