Time for progress in aiding veterans

This is what we will be celebrating Fri­day, as explained on the website Military Benefits, which is not a government site:

"Veterans Day is observed every year on November 11th. Veterans Day was originally called ‘Armistice Day’ when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed this day in November 1919. Armistice is when warring parties agree to stop fighting and ‘Armistice Day’ recognizes the end of World War I when hostilities ceased on November 11th at 11 A.M, 1918 (11th hour, of the 11th, of the 11th month).

"On May 13th, 1938 Armistice Day was declared a legal holiday each year, a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace. Originally Armistice Day only honored veterans of World War I.

"On November 11, 1947, Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran, organized a ‘Na­tional Veterans Day’ parade in Birming­ham, Ala., to recognize veterans of all wars.

"This celebration led to Congress chang­ing Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954 to recognize Veterans of all U.S. wars."

A day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace: What a wonderful sentiment that must have been just a year and a half before Hitler sent his Nazis into Poland and launched the start of World War II.

If we assume world peace is something of a pipe dream, can we at least recognize that the men and women who fought and died to keep this nation safe – and the dream of world peace alive – should not be forgotten? Certainly the men and wom­en of our veterans organizations, who do such a wonderful job every Nov. 11, every Memorial Day, every July 4, in remember­ing those who served, have them in their hearts, but what about the rest of us?

Memorial Day and July 4: Are they just days off from work? Veterans Day: Is it too cold and rainy, or are we too busy, to come to the ceremonies around our towns’ mon­uments? Do we know any veterans? What do we know about them? Here is a disturb­ing fact from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

"According to the January 2014 Veter­ans Health Administration report (PDF 855 KB), the suicide rate among male and female veterans and military service members exceeds the national rate for the general population. Veterans com­prise 20 percent of national suicides, with approximately 22 veterans dying by suicide every day. Three out of five veter­ans who died by suicide were diagnosed as having a mental health condition."

And this, too:

"Military service members, veterans, and their families are a growing community exposed to traumatic events. Involvement in combat that causes losses and fears; in­juries associated with combat; repeated deployments and/or relocations; and mili­tary sexual violence – all may exert an emotional toll on military personnel, their families, and their communities."

Combat is a terrible thing that can destroy body and mind. How much do we care as people and a nation? Has the government fixed the problems at Walter Reed Medi­cal Center? The Washington Post’s articles ran in 2007. Has anything changed? Here is what the Military Times reported recently:

"Wait times for veterans seeking medi­cal appointments at the VA have re­mained stubbornly stagnant in the past five months, with the number of patients who have waited more than a month to see a doctor topping 505,000."

More than a month to see a doctor. These are men and women who risked their lives for us, and for the very people who keep them waiting more than a month for care.

This is the final stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s poem "Tommy":

"You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:

"We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.

"Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face

"The Widow’s Uniform is not the sol­dier-man’s disgrace.

"For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ "Chuck him out, the brute!"

"But it’s "Saviour of ‘is country" when the guns begin to shoot;

"An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;

"An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!"

Kipling wrote that in 1890. It’s a pity he isn’t alive; he could update it.

This Nov. 11, remember that we owe something to those who fought and died or came home changed forever. And the next time some politician waves a flag, ask him or her if they served, and if they didn’t, ask if they could at least help those who did.

But don’t hold your breath.