Veteran’s Day: Making Good on our Debt of Gratitude

My sincere thanks to all who have served. I respect you and am grateful for you.

This Veteran’s Day I find myself more frustrated than ever with my government.

We’re still:

– Losing vets to suicide at a rate far higher than the general population.
– Not effectively treating the mental health needs of vets
– Seeing disturbingly high rates of alcoholism and opiate addiction amongst vets.
– Not resolving homelessness and vocational needs of veterans.
– Not partnering with the private sector to address the needs of vets.

Worse:

– We’re maintaining significant barriers to treatment of every kind.
– We perpetuate a military culture in which the use of alcohol is not simply condoned – it’s celebrated.
– We’ve learned nothing from disasters like Walter Reed, or V.A. waiting lists in Phoenix, Arizona.
– We’re under funding everything while waiting for the next scandal to hit the headlines.

Worst:

– We’re collectively desensitized. We’re beyond cynical. There’s no real expectation of systemic improvement. It’s disingenuous for those of us who have not served to celebrate Veteran’s Day if we’re not willing to do everything we can to address the known needs of vets throughout our country.

This is one more time in my life when I recognize that my outrage alone doesn’t serve a purpose. I hold myself to what I demand of others. I won’t listen to you from atop your soap box unless you have a solution. Don’t just tell me it’s fucked. Give me your ideas about how to fix it.

Short of holding every nationally elected leader accountable for the abysmal state of the V.A., there’s little hope our existing system is going to adequately serve those who served (and those who continue to serve).

So in addition to advocacy, let’s work outside the system.

First let me acknowledge – nobody takes care of vets better than other vets. Period. Supporting the efforts of great organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project just makes sense and constitutes an investment not only in individuals and families but also in our communities on every level.

The question for the rest of us is, “Beyond thanking veterans for their service and donating money what can I do to help?”

– Ask. Contact any non profit organization run by veterans and ask.
– Give preference to hiring vets.
– Get involved/volunteer with individuals and organizations offering educational and vocational training for vets
– Assume nothing and be yourself. We’ve come to associate “veteran” with “person who lives with PTSD and I don’t know what to say to them.” Vets respond well to simple respect just like anyone else.
– While a high percentage of veterans do live with PTSD, so do a lot of us who haven’t served in the military. Invest ten minutes and take a crash course here

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.