Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

November 8, 2013

Veterans Day more critical as troops return

By JAMES BROWN
Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — Veterans Day for Barren and surrounding counties will have extra meaning this year. That’s because the local National Guard unit returned home from work in Jordan.

While the nation of Jordan isn’t a hot zone of conflict at the moment, unlike many other Middle Eastern Arab nations, it’s still in the vicinity and could have been mired at any point in the political strife that has affected such other nations as Syria, Egypt and Libya. It was a good thing to see them come home a couple of weeks ago.

The 623rd’s return coincides with the continued drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. Those soldiers have returned home mostly to warm welcomes, but not everything has been great at home. Many suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which affects them in many different ways. Some aspects of PTSD are not apparent, even to those who suffer. They have certain reactions to stimuli and may not even be aware of what caused the reaction.

A recent story in The Washington Post listed the various governmental programs that exist with a focus on dealing with veterans’ issues and how many of those programs were considered non-essential during the federal shutdown and were not in operation for more than two weeks. The programs included those focused on getting veterans training for civilian jobs, getting them the medical treatment they needed, including for mental health issues, and other such services.

We often discuss the Greatest Generation and celebrate their military accomplishments during World War II. Sometimes, we forget there was a great deal of support provided to them by the citizens of this nation, their families and their governmental representatives. There were programs established to help them transition back to civilian life and aid them with moving forward in life.

After the conflict in Vietnam, it’s my opinion that we as a nation on many levels were simply tired of conflict. There were difficulties back home understanding the point of the fighting in southeast Asia. Ideology only carried both those stateside and the soldiers so far. Simplistically put, that led to our nation not providing a proper infrastructure for returning veterans.

Now, what I see is a nation that is again exhausted from conflict. We are trying very hard not to repeat the mistakes made following withdrawal from Vietnam. To be fully successful at that, we are going to have to watch closely the actions of our elected officials on the national level. So few of them have served in the military that I believe it is hard for them to comprehend the ramifications of firefights on soldiers. Many people can sympathize with what soldiers endure in combat, but few empathize. Our national empathy level must be raised.

When our nationally elected officials come to salute veterans at various events, be sure to ask them where they stand on funding for programs related to helping soldiers transition to civilian life. Then track their voting habits to see if they are in line with what they say.

In the coming months, elected officials will haggle over the national budget and how it must be fixed. The amount of money spent to help soldiers transition to civilian life might be targeted for reduction because it is a “hidden” cost. It is easy to see the need for jet fighters, aircraft carriers and mobile artillery, but the soldiers’ needs post service is less obvious, but just as critical (if not more so) in my opinion.

As the names of those who have served are read Monday at Beula Nunn Park, remember we are in the early stages of honoring our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. It will take a decade of diligence to ensure programs they need for physical and mental health are not reduced or eliminated. Those who volunteered to serve their country, our country, for the past decade have done their part. We must continue to do ours.

James Brown is editor for the Glasgow Daily Times. He can be contacted by e-mail at jbrown@glasgowdailytimes.com.