Throughout this year, Americans have been bombarded by a stream of bad news from overseas: the rise and advance of ISIS (Islamic State), renewed Russian nationalism, the Ukraine crisis, redeployment of American troops to Iraq, Chinese assertiveness in East Asia. The list goes on.
I think of the state of our post-Cold War world and my thoughts turn to our veterans and how much we all owe them for their service to America. And our freedom. Veterans Day, Nov. 11, is our chance to say “thank you” to those who have served. It is also a time for all of us to reflect on what it must be like to return home after being deployed for a length of time overseas.
Many troops returning home face special problems, including debilitating injuries, mental health issues, unemployment, homelessness and educational needs. Fortunately, many private and public institutions are stepping up and providing assistance to returning vets.
Mental health. Although the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is increasing spending on mental health services, the sad truth is that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, and suicide among vets is extremely high. Over 228,000 vets have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD. Through phone, chat or text, veterans and family members can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) for mental health referrals through the V.A. Another resource is an organization called Give An Hour (giveanhour.org) which puts veterans in touch with mental health professionals who have pledged a donation of their time to the cause.
Devastating injuries. Because of medical advances, the rates of death among troops injured in combat have dramatically decreased compared to earlier conflicts. Although survival rates are higher, often the vets have catastrophic injuries that will require life-long support. The Wounded Warriors Project (woundedwarriorproject.org) “takes a holistic approach when serving warriors and their families to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement.” On all areas, the WWP is an excellent resource for returning vets.
Unemployment and education. The fact is, way too many of our returning vets face unemployment and homelessness. The Center for Veterans Issues (cvivet.org) is an excellent source for transitional housing, economic aid and assistance, and a whole range of other programs for returning vets. Recently, on October 29, 2014, The Center for Veterans Issues and The Wisconsin Office of State Employment Relations partnered a workshop to offer assistance in applying for a state job. The Facebook site can be found at www.facebook.com/Center4Veterans.
For those of you who want to honor our veterans this week, here are some easy ways to do so:
• Buy a vet a cup of coffee.
• Call and visit a local nursing home or the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center (414) 384-2000. Find out what you can do to help.
• Ask a vet to share a story.
• Take a veteran to lunch.
• If you have a company, host a breakfast or break and publicly thank them.
• Make a donation to Operation Home front. www.operationhomefront.net/need/list
• Simply say “thank you.”
John Casey is a personal injury attorney in Milwaukee.