Op-ed | Don’t forget to remember our veterans
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 08:11
Yesterday, we all sighed with relief knowing that we had been granted the gift of an extra day off from classes for studying, writing, practicing or watching movies (which was technically studying because our textbooks were open next to us). We thought about our problem sets and our group meetings and our homework deadlines, but how much did we think about the reason for our much-needed extra day? For sure, in past years I rarely took a moment on Nov. 11 or the following day off to honor our country’s veterans with more than a quick thought of thanks for my paper extension. This year, however, Veterans Day means something much more to me because my big brother and best friend became Private Gordon Bagley when he joined the United States Army.
If you’re like me, you probably don’t know much about joining the military except for what you’ve seen from movies about war or maybe half-heard from an older relative around the Thanksgiving table. What I have learned in the months since my brother joined is that the sacrifice men and women have to make to become a member of our military is immense. Servicemen and servicewomen often have no idea when or to where they will be deployed. There is no clause in their contracts that says “feel free to sit out the next war if you don’t like it.” Conscription in the United States hasn’t been in effect since 1973, which means that the estimated 1,456,862 men and women currently serving in the United States Armed Forces are doing so voluntarily.
The motto of the United States infantry is “Follow Me.” Our servicemen do and have put their bodies, minds and souls into voluntarily defending us everyday so that we can go about our lives feeling safe. It seems painfully obvious that, as a nation, one of our first priorities should be protecting our currently serving troops and caring for the men and women who fought on our behalf and have returned home to us. Despite this, in 2009, the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs estimated that 75,609 out of about 22 million veterans were homeless and that veterans make up about 14 percent of the homeless population in America.
There are several organizations throughout the nation dedicated to helping veterans, including the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans and Veterans for America. Organizations such as these provide services for homeless veterans, including psychological trauma support, job training and housing assistance, but there are still many aspects of veteran support that America needs to work on. On Sept. 19 of this year, the US Senate blocked the Veterans’ Jobs Bill, which would have given $1 billion over five years to assist veterans in finding jobs. The New York Times reported that the bill, which had the potential to create 20,000 new jobs for veterans, was struck down for reasons ranging from disagreements over from where to pull funding to partisan election-season politics. To be perfectly honest, I don’t care about finger pointing. I do care about the lack of support for these men and women, even though they put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of over 311 million Americans, most of whom they will never meet.
I do not wish to say “shame on you” for not paying enough attention on Veterans’ Day. My point is to share my experience as the sister who didn’t really notice all that servicemen and women do until I had a future veteran in my household. I didn’t think that Veterans’ Day had much to do with me at all. On behalf of all the sisters out there who watch their best friend, their role model and their greatest ally put on a uniform, please don’t make the same mistake I did. Veterans’ Day has to do with all of us. There are soldiers at home and abroad risking their lives to protect all of us, and if that’s not an important connection, then I don’t know what is. So please, take a moment this week to keep in mind the veterans and soldiers you know and the ones that you may never meet. They think about you every day when they put their lives on the line to protect yours. As someone who loves one of those soldiers very much, please allow me to ask you to take a moment to think about them, too.
Liza Bagley is a senior majoring in Arabic. She can be reached at Elizabeth.Bagley@tufts.edu