November 11th is the day when the United States celebrates Veterans Day, marking the end of World War 1. On this day we express gratitude to every military veteran for their unwavering service and sacrifice. Citizens should recognize and pay tribute to the brave men and women who have served in our armed forces. However, it cannot stop there.
I am proud to have served in the United States Marine Corps and appreciate my fellow veterans. Anyone who has served will tell you that it was an honor to wear our nation's uniform and take vows to defend our citizens, our country, and our Constitution. Military enlistment has no expiration date, and service to a nation is never-ending. The military builds character traits that are still needed in society.
Tennessee is the Volunteer State. It is called the Volunteer State because in the times of crisis in which our nation found itself, whether a natural crisis or in defense of our country, our citizens were the first to respond. Veterans are known as hard workers, with the ability to learn quickly. Veterans are loyal to causes and people they believe in. With few exceptions, they are men and women of high integrity. Veterans were willing to give their very lives to defend their country.
The Marine Corps Birthday falls on the day before Veterans Day. The Marine Corps started on November 10, 1775, and is older than our nation. “Semper Fidelis,” is Latin for “Always Faithful” and is the United States Marine Corps motto. It emphasizes our unwavering loyalty and commitment to our mission and fellow Marines. Semper Fidelis reflects the core values of honor, courage, and loyalty, which are an integral part of Marine character. That is why I champion those who wear or have worn our nation's uniform in any branch of service.
Returning from their service, many veterans struggle with physical injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, and suicidal thoughts. Often, they suffer from more than one of these conditions. Mental health challenges are prevalent among veterans in the United States, with a significantly higher risk of suicide. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in 2020, an average of nearly 17 veterans took their own lives every day, totaling 6,146 veteran suicides. Furthermore, after adjusting for population age and sex differences, the suicide rate among veterans was 57% higher than that of non-veteran U.S. adults in 2020.
It is crucial to provide support and mental health services to veterans, as well as increased awareness about the challenges they may encounter when transitioning to civilian life. The statistics highlight the need for organizations and government agencies, such as the VA, to offer aid and resources to veterans suffering from mental health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As a society, we owe our veterans more than just repeating the well-deserved tributes to their bravery and patriotism. Too many vets have become acquainted with indifference along with the unwanted souvenirs of wounds and scars. Our schools and colleges should really look at ways to honor veterans and invite them to speak. Many of the older generations have now passed away. What stories could they have shared and passed down to future generations? What knowledge have we lost?
Our veterans have served America with the fervent belief that freedom and democracy are ideals to be upheld around the world. The late Senator John Warner reminded us: “Tragically, the effort to make America and the world safer and to defend freedom around the world is not without an enormous cost to this nation in terms primarily of lost lives and those who bear the scars and the wounds of war, and their families who must bear these losses.” It is time we make those who serve our state and nation a higher priority.
It is our collective responsibility to uphold our promises and obligations to those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom. Honoring veterans is not just a one-day commitment but a continuous effort to show our gratitude for their sacrifices and ensure they have the support and resources they need to thrive in civilian life.
JC Bowman is the executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee