With Veterans Day coming tomorrow I just wanted to get a few thoughts I’ve been mulling over for the past few days off of my chest and mind. We’ve all seen the typical announcements about businesses, stores, and restaurants that are participating in the holiday. They’re giving free meals, deals, freebies, and discounts to veterans, service members, and their families. While this is a good thing, why isn’t this a norm year-round? Is this ‘holiday’ for veterans or just a capitalist do-good event? Is it for veterans or just an empty spectacle of patriotism for civilians?
First, it would make sense that freebies or discounts weren’t a norm if the veteran population in the U.S. was massive but veterans don’t even account for 10% of the entire U.S population. There are even less active duty service members (1.4 million). Second, the requirement of an ID for a free meal or product is problematic and ensures that some vets are unable to participate in the day that was meant for honoring them.
I know many would like to then argue this strawman, “People will just be saying they’re Veterans and get free stuff!” That would be a very minor issue and a small number of individuals trying to do that. I would be more worried about a system that is excluding homeless Veterans.
I also think it’s highly problematic that majority of states help vets get identification, for discounts and what not, but the veteran can’t use it to also get real help (e.g., benefits).
Lastly, the majority of businesses are making money off of veterans but doing nothing to help veterans or active duty service members. If it’s truly about veterans then businesses shouldn’t be using this week to push their advertisements and make a major profit.
Instead, they should use this week to give the money or a majority percentage to veterans organizations and nonprofits. There are plenty of businesses who do this already, the rest just need to fall in line and do the right thing. I say businesses, most specifically big businesses, can afford to continue the discounts, free or discounted meals, etc. for vets year-round, yes we’re all looking at you Amazon and Walmart.
No one wants to talk about the multitude of problems facing vets in our modern society. No, that reality is far too uncomfortable to own up to or even acknowledge, especially on a holiday like this.
Oh, but the majority of Americans will share their Veterans Day memes, fly their flags, thank someone for their service, and end their day with a self-gratifying pat on the back and a warm fuzzy feeling deep down inside.
The most important thing that any American can do is not treat Veteran’s Day as another holiday. It should serve as a reminder to keep veterans in our hearts and on our minds year-round. Our country needs to do better in addressing veteran issues every single day, not just thank them for a week and that’s it.
Take the opportunity to share real Veteran stories. Learn more and try to understand veterans rather than expecting vets to assimilate. Another way you can make the day about Veterans is by giving in some small way to help them in your area and throughout the country. Again, these are things that can be done year-round. You want to appreciate Veterans and honor them? Do better to understand the life and reality of veterans in our country.
Homeless Veterans Statistics
- About 1.5 million veterans are considered to be at-risk of homelessness.
- 50% of Veterans are more likely to become homeless than other Americans.
- An estimated number of 40,000 vets are without shelter on any given night in the U.S.
- Roughly 91% are men and 9% are women.
- Veterans account for 11% of homeless adults in the U.S.
- California has the highest rates of veterans living out on the streets.
- The leading causes of homelessness among Veterans are:
- Lack of affordable housing
- Severe mental illness
- Substance Use Disorders (high rates of opioid addiction)
- The lack of needed support and services regarding these factors
Veteran Mental Health Statistics
- Less than 50% of returning vets receive some form of mental health treatment
- Suicide rates for veterans are 1.5 times higher than other Americans
- Risk factors of mental health issues in veterans and service members:
- Mental and physical trauma
- Mental health challenges also can increase the risk of substance use and misuse as a form of self-medication.
- 22 Veterans die by suicide every day
- Factors that increase the risk of suicide:
- Acute psychosocial stressors
- Low cholesterol
- Higher doses of opioid medications (pain control)
- Mental health conditions (anxiety disorders including PTSD, depressive disorders, and TBI (traumatic brain injury)
- Substance use (including binge drinking)
Veteran Unemployment Statistics and Facts
In 2020, there were 581,000 unemployed veterans. Veterans are struggling with unemployment for a variety of reasons that civilians need to understand. The vast majority of military jobs and experience translate to the civilian work sector many veterans are still falling short in translating this onto resumes and civilians are failing to understand the compatibility there.
Veterans’ mental and physical health are also major obstacles and factors of unemployment. PTSD, other mental health disorders, and disabilities can also increase the chance of an employer passing up a veteran, with these types of struggles the employer will have worries of whether or not the veteran can assimilate to the workplace environment.
Stop Making More of Us!
All of these issues I’ve listed above only scratch the surface and they all have been worsened due to the pandemic. If we really want to honor vets, let’s stop making them and take care of the ones that have been completely forgotten. Let’s replace and repair our infrastructure to support and care for those who have joined the military forces.
Don’t even get me started on the failure that is the VA, lack of healthcare, the non-existent transition to the civilian world, shady recruitment tactics, and the problems inside of the military culture that has long-lasting impacts on Veterans and those who are currently serving.
For all the money we spend on endless wars we could be taking care of those who sacrificed their freedoms, time, bodies, and minds for this country. Stop making more just to leave them alone and abandoned, as if all they were and will ever be are used up pieces of government property.