The least we can do|
It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the organizer,
Who gave us the freedom to demonstrate
It is the soldier,
Who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag.
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
Father Dennis Edward O'Brien,
sergeant, United States Marine Corps
If you took part in America's civic sacrament on Tuesday, you have millions of veterans to thank for the privilege.
Even if you stayed home on Election Day, you owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women in uniform who keep this nation free of despots who would compel you not only to vote, but dictate for whom you must vote.
Every year on Nov. 11, Americans are invited to pause to honor those patriots. Since 9/11, the nation has renewed its commitment to the veterans who have served, in war and in peace. But now is not the time to relax our vigilance as millions of Americans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan find their way back home.
They could be the guy or the gal in front of you in line at the movies or the couple with a small child at the table next to you in the restaurant.
Elsewhere in Viewpoints today, Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, commander, of the First Army headquartered on Arsenal Island, reminds us that since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 3 million Americans have answered the call to service, and 1.3 million, including 28,000 in the Quad-Cities, have returned in search of a place at home. Those numbers will grow as America pulls out of Afghanistan. Along with those who have come before them, these newly minted vets will need your help in the days, weeks, months, and yes, years ahead.
This global war on terror is once again proving true what Jose Narosky said, "In war, there are no unwounded soldiers."
Nearly 50 percent of returning veterans, many of whom have seen multiple deployments, are diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. Though veterans make up just 13 percent of the population, a disproportionate number battle substance abuse, domestic violence and mental illness. A third of our homeless are vets, and a fifth of all those who commit suicide in America are veterans. We must do everything we can to help save them, as well as ease the path here at home for all our returning heroes. We can do that by supporting policies that are pro-veteran in Washington and Springfield. We can support veteran organizations that can be found throughout our communities. We can say thank you not only to that veteran, but their families. In the modern military, many soldiers are apt to be parents of small children. When deployed, they leave behind a husband or wife to do battle at home. They, too, need our help as their loved ones readjust to life in our community.
One important way to help both veterans and their families is by providing a job. Locally, the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce is organizing a We Hire Vets campaign aimed at pairing businesses with well-trained veterans available to serve them. Also in Viewpoints today, Yves Fontaine, the retired major general who served as commander of the Army Sustainment Command on the Rock Island Arsenal, makes the case better than we ever could for what businesses who hire our heroes get in exchange for doing the right thing. Please, take a moment to read his piece and then begin looking for a place for these heroes in your company. (Remember, too, there are tax credits available for doing so.)
Of course, today is not set aside to honor one veteran of a single generation, but all of them. So if you know a veteran, please thank them today. Hug their spouse. Ask them how you can help and then do it. Then, please, make a commitment to do it for more than a single day. It is the least we can do to return a tiny measure of what they have given to us.
Honoring Honor Flights
If you're looking for an organization to help support our veterans, consider Honor Flight of the Quad-Cities.
On Wednesday, 69 veterans of the Korean War and 20 World War II vets landed in Washington, courtesy of the Quad-Cities chapter and Hy-Vee. The Q-C's 21st flight was the fourth sponsored by the ubiquitous Q-C supermarket chain. We salute the organization and its volunteers, those who made the trip to the airport to cheer these heroes, Hy-Vee and, of course, the veterans aboard. Honor Flight reminds us of this Will Rogers' quote: "We can't all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they pass by."
Thanks for being there.