The approaching New Year has with it a lot of good and bad to think about the year, how it’s gone, celebrate the lives of those who are no longer with us and to better appreciate those around us.
An Uncertain World
There are a great many issues which stand to affect the military and veterans alike moving into 2017. An uncertain world is a habitat that lends itself to conflict. With conflict comes us, and those like us. It gives opportunity, but also danger, which pretty much go together when talking about the military.
But there are also deep-seated issues revolving the winding down of the original theaters of the Global War on Terror as we move into the ISIS-dominated media era. There are still US service members dying in Iraq and Afghanistan alike. And although those numbers are dropping significantly, compared to how they were in the years leading up to 9/11, the danger is still there.
One of the biggest pieces to watch for in the coming year is how President-elect Trump’s administration tackles the issues surround veterans care. The VA has had a great deal of controversy surrounding it in the past few years. Veterans are denied legitimate claims, have been exposed to dangerous diseases and even die while waiting for care. These things are completely unacceptable, and it’s up to us to make sure that the ship is righted and fellow veterans get the care to which they are entitled by their service to our great country.
Stopping Veteran Suicide
This is probably one of the biggest issues for us. Veteran suicide has been higher than ever in the past few years, and, sadly, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better anytime soon. There are countless stories of veterans facing the worst hell that they could ever experience, only to be ignored by their communities, the authorities and the VA itself.
In times when the institutions that are meant to help fail, we are the ones who must, again, step up. We have to be there for one another. We have to be the supporting ear, the shoulder to lean on. We are responsible for one another. And, from my own experience, there is no one better-suited than a veteran to listen and swap stories with another veteran. This is our therapy, just like each generation before. Getting together with other veterans can be the silver bullet which helps take down this awful issue.
Community of Strength
One of the biggest drawbacks of the digital age we live in is that we often allow social media time to take the place of physically getting together with other veterans. Older generations had institutions like the VFW and American Legion. What, shockingly, many modern vets don’t realize is that they, too, are more than welcome at these places. In fact, I think we need a push for these organizations for the purpose of rebuilding our veteran community to be as strong in person as it is online.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has done an outstanding job of deputizing local veterans as leaders to organize their very own “VetTogethers” at they are called. IAVA sponsors free regional events all over the place and is working tirelessly to bring veterans issues to the forefront (they are the organization we can thank for the Commander-in-Chief Forum, where both presidential candidates were asked questions by military members and veterans).
The VFW, American Legion and Disabled Veterans of America all do great work in helping veterans get disability compensation as well as navigating the treacherous waters of Veterans Affairs. But they also offer great opportunities to get involved and get out of the house.
But there is no community like the one that you personally served with. So as we approach the final days of the New Year, try to pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t heard from in a while. I received one of these calls not long ago, and it really meant a lot more than I thought it would. In country, it was up to us to look after one another. This won’t change as we move forward into the new year.