November 12, 2013

My point is... An Interview with a Veteran

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — There is no mail today, federal offices are closed, and children around the country will be honoring our nation’s veterans through special programs at school.

There is no one special day that we should honor our veterans — it should be every day. But setting a particular day aside for remembrance and appreciation is a universal way to say “thank you” to those who sacrificed so much.

Through the many years of interviewing veterans for our special sections and more recently, the annual Silver magazine edition each November, it is rare that these former military people talk about their real-life experiences other than to share some comedic instances in their lives. They do not share the times they were scared for their lives, the times they broke down and cried, the times they saw horrible massacres. They keep those in their heart and in the corners of their minds and talk only of their patriotism and name the battles they endured.

These gallant men and women gave a part of their lives that can never be replaced and never be repaid. They don’t expect great recognition or commendations, but they appreciate it when those achievements are recognized.

The ongoing battle in Washington concerning cutbacks to “social programs” inevitably affects these brave men and women who now survive on Social Security and Veterans Administration checks. For most, receiving disability or back pay on injuries and illnesses associated with their military duty is a long and frustrating process. Many never see the ‘fruits’ of their sacrifice.

Our government is renowned for cutting back on our veterans’ benefits. My father died during “Reagan-omics” and his 27 years of service — including serving in pre-war Vietnam, on the front lines in Korea, and his service during the end of World War II — was rewarded with $150 from the government. It paid to dig his grave. He served during three wars and his service was rewarded with $50 per war.

Now the national debt is resulting in even more cutbacks to our veterans. Those who are dying are sent home from V.A. hospitals so the government will not be responsible to pay on their funeral. Ditto for the wives who draw V.A. benefits. Those on Social Security or other government programs have seen increasing rates for insurance and other ‘benefits,’ even though they risked their lives many times to receive those funds.

Meanwhile, we reward those who refuse to work by handing out food, food stamps, unwarranted disability, clothing vouchers, heat assistance funds and free money — all from funds paid in by the working people, including the younger veterans who retired and re-joined the workforce or those who served their time and came back home to live productive lives.

What a travesty our nation has become when we continuously overlook the very people who provided us with the means of life that we enjoy today. What a shame that every town doesn’t host a “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans” celebration to reward them for the horrors they endured or host an annual Veterans Parade to let these proud men and women be recognized. And what an embarrassment when the people in these communities fail to show their support for the few occasions these military folks have that privilege of being honored.

Anyone who has sacrificed their safety and security should receive honors from our country. Those who retire from military duty should receive full benefits and burial from our government, and government funds should be allocated to ensure that at least once a year those who have gone on be recognized with an American flag at their final resting place.

There is never a way to say thank you enough. But there are certainly an abundance of ways that we can recognize our veterans in more concrete and meaningful ways.

I’m proud to live in a community where our veterans are recognized. My hope is that our nation’s Capitol will soon come to the same realization.