Honor veterans – and help them

Today is Veteran’s Day. It marks the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when Allied forces and Germany signed the armistice that ended World War I.

Our nation’s military heroes from a number of wars and armed conflicts around the world are being honored today in ceremonies all across America, including events in the South Sound and at the Capitol Campus.

This Veteran’s Day has taken on special meaning. Newly re-elected President Barack Obama has pledged to bring home the remaining 68,000 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, in a way ending another war.

That means an entire new generation of men and women are returning home, many with physical and mental health issues. Government records indicate a disproportionate number of veterans struggle with domestic violence, mental illness and substance abuse. Veterans account for as much as a third of the nation’s homeless and a fifth of recorded suicides.

If Congress cannot agree on anything else, perhaps it could find common ground on doing more for our veterans. Providing more resources to the Veterans Administration could mean improved service, and expanded programs designed specifically for modern soldiers.

We do not want to repeat the travesty after the Vietnam War, whose brave warriors never received proper care and attention, or were helped to reassimilate into civilian society, because of the public’s opposition to the war.

When young people volunteer to don the uniforms of the United States military branches, in times of either war or peace, every other American assumes an obligation to support them and their families.

It’s important to have ceremonies once a year, perhaps offer free car washes to veterans or host pancake breakfasts. But we can do more.

We can go beyond the public appearance of appreciation, to putting serious effort into assisting our veterans on the real issues with which they will continue to do battle.