We hope everyone will find at least a moment today to pause with a thought for the military veterans among us, millions of them, who sacrificed their safety and security for ours. Whether the dwindling remnant of forces that went abroad to fight in World War II or recently returned warriors from Afghanistan or Syria, they deserve our respect and our appreciation.
Many activities were held over the weekend to honor our veterans, such as the Veterans Day parade in downtown Winston-Salem on Saturday and a special walk through the Festival of Lights at Tanglewood Park on Sunday afternoon. The observances continue today, with a program at 11 a.m. in Yadkin County Park, sponsored by the Yadkin County Veterans Council, and a parade at 4 p.m. in Lexington, among many other activities. Some private businesses will honor the veterans in special ways. Many city, county, state and federal offices will be closed in their honor. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools will be closed today.
Military service calls dedicated men and women from all walks of life in America — and some from other countries — who serve regardless of race, religion, gender or economic circumstances. They teach us that those superficial characteristics don’t matter when we’re united for a worthy cause.
Though they give their all, America has not always given enough in return. Veterans returning from war often bear the scars, physical, emotional and mental, of witnessing the worst depravity of mankind. Adjusting to civilian life can be difficult. Though the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VFW and volunteer groups offer resources, too many of our veterans wind up unemployed, on the streets or victims of the opioid crisis that continue to ravage our communities.
Veterans also face higher levels of suicide than the general public. An average of 17 U.S. veterans kill themselves every day, according to 2017 data from the VA. That rate is 1.5 times higher than for non-veteran adults. The causes vary, but include depression and other mental-health challenges.
Winston-Salem has made a special effort in recent years to provide homes for veterans and in 2015, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness said that Winston-Salem and Forsyth County had ended veteran homelessness after putting in place programs that help anyone identified as a homeless veteran find permanent housing quickly. But there’s still more to be done.
The least we can do today, each of us, is pause for that moment of reflection on the freedoms we take for granted, that in many cases were earned on the battlefield. More so, we can seek out the veterans we know to say, “Thank you for your service. I’m grateful.”
But let’s not forget them the rest of the year. Organizations like the Honor Flight Network, Operation Gratitude and the Wounded Warrior Project work hard for our veterans year-round. They’re worthy of our support. Let’s let our heroes know that we care.