Our opinion: We should keep our vets in our thoughts more than once a year. We have a lot to thank them for.
Every Veteran’s Day my dad and my grandpa hit town. Now 85, my grandpa still dons his Air Force uniform for the evening, though now he stands at attention with a matching Air Force blue walker. It’s one of the rare instances the stoic retiree smiles for photos.
He knows he looks sharp and he doesn’t mind being complimented by pretty girls whether they are his grandaughters or whether they’re strangers dancing around him at the Elks club asking to take photos with him.
He spent three years in the Army and 22 years in the Air Force. He built a fine life with that career. He was overseas during the occupation of Germany post WWII, where he met my grandma. During the Vietnam era he was in Thailand, was stationed at various bases around the world and within the United States and then eventually had his final assignment at Grand Forks Air Force Base. Not too shabby for a “local yokel” from Woodworth, North Dakota.
In the mid 2000s he was awarded a number of medals he should have received 50 years prior from none other than Kent Conrad. You can bet your boots he wore that beautiful uniform--he even smiled in the photos that were taken that day.
A Veteran’s Day editorial may seem like old news a week after the fact -- and that’s the problem. We should keep our vets in our thoughts more than once a year. We have a lot to thank them for.
A few weeks ago we featured a Last Word piece from a Gold Star family member. Not only should we keep the vets that walk among us in our thoughts but we should also acknowledge those who didn’t make it home.
Some carry the weight of battle like an albatross around their neck.
These experiences alone resonate within some of these war veterans. Whether they served in WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, or Operation Iraqi Freedom.
According to va.gov in 2014, approximately 65 percent of all Veterans who died by suicide were age 50 or older. According to the same website suicide risk for veterans is 22% higher than that of non veterans. According to activeheroes.org, 22 veterans take their lives per day. That’s 8,030 annually which is approximately the population of Valley City.
They suffer from depression, PTSD, survivor’s guilt, self-blame from a failed mission,substance abuse, just to name a few triggers that would lead a veteran to take their own life.
The mind can be a dark place and if you or someone you know is suffering, don’t hesitate to call the lifeline for vets, it’s toll free and their tagline is “Veterans helping veterans” 888.777.4443
Though many have a tough time talking about their experiences, Prairie Public is participating in an oral history project called “Prairie Memories: the Vietnam War Years.” They are collecting the stories of those who served in Vietnam and the intent is to document how the Vietnam War affected individuals in the region. Participants can submit their stories and interested parties should really check out the website: https://www.mnvietnam.org/
by C.S. Hagen
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