Veterans Day — Nov. 11 — is not just another day. For those who earned the title of veteran, it can mean a few months or years of life itself. For all of us, it means trillions of dollars to pay for half a dozen wars our country has been involved in just during the lifetime of the oldest among us.
It also is a day to honor those who risked life and limb to be in harm’s way in the event of an attack by enemies or in the defense of friendly nations threatened by those determined to destroy democracy or the way of life-based on traditional, Bible-based values.
Of the 16 million U.S. men and women who served in the military during World War II — the most expansive and costly in lives, materials and destruction, of any war in history—, 167,284 remain alive today. But they are dying off at a rate of 180 a day. None will be left by Veterans Day of 2045, according to statistics maintained by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Yet there still are 15 million veteran men and women who make up just under seven percent of the American population of 238,427,500. The biggest portion — just over 6 million — of those former military members served during the Vietnam war.
Nearly 4 million served during the pre-9/11 Gulf conflict and about the same number served in the post-9/11 conflicts in that area. And just over 2 million are veterans of the Korean war.
All those veterans cost the federal government about $140 billion a year for pensions and disability payments, another $100 billion for medical care plus $12 billion for education or occupational training.
In addition, nearly every state spends at least $1 to $2 million annually on veterans while states like California and Florida, which have the largest veteran populations, spend $17 to $20 million a year mostly, for pensions, disability benefits, medical care, and education. And many states offer veterans a break on taxes or things like fishing licenses.
As a veteran of WWII and recipient of a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and Presidential Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster, I feel blessed and am thankful for the benefits I received that helped me through college, gave me a break on a lower interest rate for the mortgage on our first house, and now allows me the opportunity to see a doctor at a VA clinic and receive some medications at a reduced rate and be buried for free in a veterans cemetery.
But most of my medical care is covered by Medicare — which I paid into during a lifetime of working and still do through income tax — including a tax on half of my Social Security income.
However, those men and women who had an arm or leg or both blown off — especially in the Gulf conflicts, particularly Afghanistan — or suffer from the effects of Agent Orange, like so many who were in Vietnam do, or the thousands who continue to have mental issues because of what they have seen or experienced in the hell which war is, deserve all the benefits we can give them because of what they — and their families — have given for us.
In many places on Veterans Day, there will be parades and patriotic speeches. At Arlington and other veteran cemeteries, there will be somber ceremonies honoring those who have fallen.
How will you mark the day?
Maybe you could visit a veteran in a hospital or nursing home, many of whom have no one who cares.
Should you happen to meet a veteran along the way, a “thank you for your service” usually is appreciated.
Nothing is more meaningful than a quiet prayer for those veterans you may or may not know.