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Carol Anne Costa: Every Day Is Veterans Day

Thursday, November 07, 2013

 

Is one day really enough to honor those who lay down their lives to protect ours?

I remind myself each day that liberty, freedom and rights come at a cost; a cost I do not personally pay. I never paid with a gun, a medic bag, or a tour of duty, although millions have paid that hefty fee on my behalf. As we close out a decade of war, it sadly seems like we have become increasingly untethered from our military. We can sit and analyze the reasons: the huge military industrial complex eats up the money and the big headlines, the impact of an all volunteer military has created chasm between the public and the service, the decade of war we have endured has somewhat desensitized the public at large.

But honestly, the reasons are unimportant. At the end of the day someone is fighting, sustaining massive injuries and dying for me; for my right to write this column, for the right to worship or not worship, for the right to petition the government, for the right to assemble, for the right to be safe and free from intrusion in my home and yes, if I choose, the right to protect my home with a gun. As my heroic friends in the service past and present know all too well, freedom is not free. Veterans Day is more than a parade or chance to wave a flag. It must be as omnipresent as the service men and women who protect us at each passing moment.

Stow away the politics

As I reflect on the upcoming Veterans Day, I am careful to always stow away politics, ideologies, and rhetoric, and simply focus on the centuries of service given to this nation by our men and women in uniform. Their numbers are remarkable, their duties immense, and their service priceless. Bullets, bombs, and IEDs know no affiliation or stripe. According to the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) there are approximately 3.6 million active military personal with 1.9 million dependants in service to the nation. They are stationed in over 500 countries and territories around the globe. Some are in advisory positions, some are in defensive postures protecting fragile borders and democracies, some are providing humanitarian aid, and some are in mortal combat.

I ask pointedly: do we give this any thought in our daily routine? The honest answer for so many is no. But to those who have lost a loved one and those who close their eyes at night with a husband, wife, mother, father, sibling, son, daughter, grandchild, or dear friend far off and in harm’s way, the answer is yes. For these people Veteran’s Day is every day, as it should be for the rest of us.

Who are they?

According to the Veterans Administration resources there are 22 million veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces that have reintegrated back into our society. They will need benefits, work, housing, healthcare, and an overall support system. Hereandnow.org published a very interesting and thoughtful article on the challenges facing our recently returning veterans. But Paul Rieckoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Of America (IAVA), summarizes the approach we need in order to address these challenges head on. “Every community-based nonprofit, local veterans group, the faith-based community—everybody’s got to wrap their arms around these folks and get them the support they need," he says. The same can be prescribed for our aging vets who are dying at a rate of 600 people per day. They need end of life care, companionship, and ultimately burial benefits. Our veterans require a full and sturdy safety net and we all need to hold the corners. They are due our care, treasure, and collective embrace. 

What can we do?

We must begin first and foremost by teaching our children. We must impart on them the price of service; the cost of freedom and their duty to honor those who serve. To give them an idea, the VA has a wonderful student and teacher guide to foster a better understanding of Veterans Day. Technology also makes virtual visits to the war memorials a mere click away. Right here in Rhode Island, WaterFire is sponsoring a Veterans tribute on November 9, providing the perfect setting to take a moment and reflect upon the service of many and make a pledge to be more active.

Additionally, folks can and should support the local VFW or American Legion Post, visit the VA, support Operation Stand Down, send a card overseas, or just simply pledge to find a way to lend a hand. It is incumbent upon each of us to honor the service of the military and to pass that along to our children. The opportunities to help and support are plentiful. Take advantage of them and make veterans and their families aware that we too know Veterans Day is every day. It is only us who can drop anchor and re-secure our relationship to our veterans and our military. I will happily make that pledge. To each veteran, I salute you. Happy Veterans Day!  

 

Carol Costa is a public relations and community outreach specialist; she has experience in both the public and private sectors. She is the Chairwoman of the Scituate Democratic Town Committee and has extensive community affairs and public relations experience. She previously served in the Rhode Island Judiciary for nearly 17 years. Carol also enjoyed a successful development stint at the Diocese of Providence as Associate Director for Catholic Education and is currently a public housing manager. Her work has been published in several local outlets including GoLocal, Valley Breeze, The Rhode Island Catholic, and Currents Magazine.

 

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