Wanted to just take a moment, since it's Veteran's Day, to remind everyone that it is estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day in America. Substantially fewer ever see their primary care physician regarding mental health, and only a fraction ever go to a VA center, and thus, are unaware of the services and ways such facilities can help. (There's a lot of work to be done to restore trust in the VA, from what I understand, but I hear from workers and veterans that a lot has been done to improve it.)
In the modern age of an all volunteer military (which, I think most will agree, is how it should be in the end), more people are disconnected and removed from the military than ever. Yes, everyone's grandfather was in the military. We all probably had an uncle serve in Vietnam, too. But odds are, most of our current generations don't personally know people in the military. They're such a statistically small group of people. There's always been an "out of sight, out of mind" approach, really, when it comes to service men and women. I heard from a veteran today who kept saying, "America isn't ever at war. The military is. America is at the mall." And it's so true. We've been at war for almost exactly half my lifetime, and I've never felt like "we" are at war. It's such a removed thing for most Americans that it's incredibly easy to forget, or not think much about it.
I'm trying to avoid making any sweeping political statements in here, because I'd like a Veteran's Day thread to be primarily about giving veterans attention. I do just want to specifically say that I always recognize how opposition to wars can be something many in the military find problematic (I was threatened a number of times in high school by people with relatives deployed for wearing anti-war sentiments on my backpack), but I think most of us all come from the same place of wanting what's best for the country and especially our troops. Only speaking for myself here, but one of the reasons I dislike the huuuuuge budget for the military and the level of international involvement we love to participate in is that I think it makes us deploy the military very liberally. We are very quick to send these men and women into harm's way, and it seldom feels like for any particularly good reason, or with any particularly clear objective. I don't feel like we often put our military in the best positions for success (Afghanistan, for example: the military isn't exactly great at nation-building, and that is not it's function or job, so why do we keep making them try to do that?)
It's hard hearing the insane rate of suicide among veterans because it makes you realize how isolated this minority group is. We send them overseas, to see horrible things. We spend billions to train and prepare them for war, but then completely fail to adequately prepare them to reintegrate into civilian life back home. We need to do a better job ensuring they have resources to get back to their regular life, and of resources to use if they encounter troubles - either in terms of mental or physical health, or financially. I can't imagine what it's like to spend a couple tours in Afghanistan where no one but your family is thinking about you, then coming home and finding no one but your family thinking about you, and struggling with things - because even if you don't see anything bad and don't encounter symptoms of PTSD, there's still likely going to be stress on the family from your absence (not saying it's always super difficult, but I can't imagine it's ever "easy"). As someone who has never served, it is definitely always on my mind the fact that I as a voter could potentially be asking them to do something I am not willing to do myself (I generally try to not vote for people who are going to eagerly deploy them into harm's way, but it is kind of unavoidable at times). So it strikes me as very obvious that the very least I can do is contribute whatever I can to helping them get back on their feet when they return.
Even more, I heard from a number of veterans today about how it's worth remembering that it isn't just the veterans struggling with deployment or PTSD. Their families deal with it too. The stress of losing a spouse/parent/income-earner to deployment is obvious to anyone, but soldiers returning from combat zones affected by their experiences also does much. (I think about this a lot especially because my cousin's husband came back from Afghanistan almost fundamentally different. He grew a lot more irritable and violent. As someone who has dealt with other mental health issues, I definitely understand why it is difficult to self-identify such problems, so a lot vets only wind up considering they've been affected when loved ones confront them about the changes. And that adds stress too.)
We're all pretty quick to try and politicize veterans to our causes. And to be sure, they don't exist outside our world. They have opinions and participate in our democracy of equal validity on their own right, too. So I propose that if you've ever quoted a veteran in regards to a particular political argument, you consider donating a little money to some of these causes trying to help them and their families.
A few organizations worth donating to:
Fisher House Foundation
Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund
Homes for our Troops
Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust
America's VetDogs (which isn't actually about helping dogs that have been used in the service, but is about getting service dogs for veterans who need them - and I love this one because it's kind of crazy how much these dogs also help with PTSD on top of any physical disabilities as well.)
As an aside: I had done some work with Wounded Warrior Project. They famously put on things like Tough Mudders to raise money. They do fine work and I don't want to shit on them too hard, but their budget is whack. Only about 60% of money raised goes to actually helping veterans. Nearly 35% goes to the running of the organization and fundraising campaigns. I don't see the harm in fundraising if you and a group of buds are going to do a Tough Mudder - might as well have some of that go to helping vets - but I've long switched from organizations that take such a large chunk for "functional" purposes. Most of the ones I listed above are ones that take less than 10% for fundraising and operational costs. So you can be reasonably sure your donations are actually going to helping veterans and not constructing wooden towers for jacked up fitness nerds to run up, ya know?