Last week an extraordinary gathering occurred in Portsmouth, one that exemplifies the true meaning of Veterans Day, and one that each of us should strive for when honoring those who served our country.
With little fanfare or media coverage, a small group of wonderful people joined together to honor the final wish of Army veteran Ray VanGorder. Sgt. VanGorder’s wish was reflective of the incredible heart and spirit that every veteran I have ever known possesses. Sgt. VanGorder wanted to visit the Isles of Shoals one last time, a simple request from a soldier who answered the call of his country. We should all be humbled by Sgt. VanGorder’s wish, but it should serve as a reminder that to truly honor those who served our country, it must be a special endeavor by each of us. Honor and respect must be a human connection, a sincere personal commitment that demonstrates appreciation for our veterans.
On Wednesday, Nov. 11, we as a nation will once again set out to honor those who served our country in the military, and will for the most part fail. Veterans Day has become a “holiday” in name only, an opportunity to pay lip service to the men and women who served in the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force, and sadly nothing more. As a public figure, who also happens to be a veteran, I feel an obligation to speak on behalf of my brothers and sisters, because their sacrifice deserves more than the phony rhetoric offered by some once a year. Our veterans have earned our gratitude and the devotion of an indebted nation. Our veterans deserve nothing less, and have earned much more than we as a nation have to offer.
A recent report by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that veterans make up at least 16 percent of all homeless adults. Post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, which for many often leads to drug addiction, is further complicating everyday life for many of our veterans. The VA scandal, and the failure by our elected representatives to fix a system that many feel is beyond repair, is doing little to serve our veterans. The truth only reveals our great national sin. The very people who served us in our time in need have been forgotten.
Each of our veterans is part of an elite fraternity, to which only about 1 percent of the country belongs. The U.S. military is without a doubt the most mighty fighting force ever assembled in history. However, it is also the most moral and humane group of men and women. The men and women of the U.S. military have not only served in harm’s way in battlefields around the world, but have answered the cries of people in need. Our military has served on more humanitarian missions than they have in actual combat. Yet, in their time of need, they are often left to their own struggles,
abandoned by the very nation that claims to be grateful for their service.
Our military veterans personify honor, sacrifice and commitment. These values are reflected in the actions of soldiers who carry their fallen comrades to safety, who rush to assist a community devastated by a tornado, who deliver humanitarian supplies to a village in distress. Honor, sacrifice and commitment are part of the job description of a very special band of Americans. Americans like Sgt. Ray VanGorder.
I have no doubt that many people are sincere in their appreciation of our military veterans, but like so many of our efforts, we are failing our veterans. It is time we as a nation recommitted ourselves to our veterans. It is time that each one of us embraces the words “honor, sacrifice, and commitment,” and serve our veterans as they served us. Great organizations like Veterans Count, Liberty House, Concerned Veterans for America, and other well-meaning groups are indispensable. Yet sadly many veterans in need either do not know about some these services or are too proud to reach out. However, this is where each one of us can be a bridge for those in need and those who are ready to provide our veterans with the help they seek. This is our moment to serve our fellow brothers and sisters. This Veterans Day do something to honor those who served on our behalf.