STRAIGHT TALK: Debt we owe to our patriots continues to grow

Steve Stefanides

On Nov. 11, many Americans around the country took the time to take a moment to say thank you to all the men and women who have ever served in our armed forces.

They did so amid the playing of bands, the waving of flags and special aerial fly-overs to celebrate those service men and women who have worn the uniform of this nation.

No matter which branch of the service and whether you were a Reservist or National Guardsman, you all served your nation and you are owed a huge debt of gratitude.

Veterans Day in the United States began in 1954. This was when then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law, renaming the holiday from Armistice Day.

It should not be confused with Memorial Day, when our nation pays its respects to those that gave their lives while in uniform.

We’ve gone from a conscription armed service that began under FDR in 1940 prior to World War II and ended in January 1973. We now have an all-volunteer military, while we’ve seen the role of Reservists and Guardsmen grow to upward of 40 percent of those men and women deployed during these last 14 years.

More disability

Since we began the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, about 2.5 million people have served in those conflicts. Those wars have produced more disability claims per veteran than any of the other wars on the books.

About 6,700 lives have been lost during these conflicts, a small number compared to Vietnam. But the total number of documented disabilities is approaching those numbers found in the Vietnam conflict.

The cost of freedom is not cheap, and its true cost can be found in the many cemeteries across this nation and in the grieving hearts of those families that have seen their fathers, sons, daughters and wives make the ultimate sacrifice for the protection of our freedoms and liberties.

Today’s solider is better educated, equipped and trained than during any other time in this great nation’s history.

Today’s soldier is being called upon more often to answer the call of our leaders to protect those they serve and the ideals of our democracy.

Professional and proud

We live in troubling times, and when called upon, our soldiers respond with the professionalism and pride that best represents the stars and stripes adorning their uniforms. They carry with them the great legacy of those that came before them and established the reputation of this country as peace makers and not conquerors of foreign lands or plunderers of treasuries.

We owe these great patriots nothing but the excellent levels of services that they richly deserve as they put away their uniforms and return to their civilian lives.

It is tragic that any veteran is homeless, that 22 veterans a day commit suicide or any veteran lacks adequate medical care.

We quibble over relatively small expenditures to meet their needs and send billions of taxpayers’ dollars to foreign regimes that hide our enemies and show outward disdain for our nation and its great heritage.

Our military personnel don’t debate their calls to duty or the requirement to make the ultimate sacrifice if called upon. Unfortunately our politicians quibble, argue and fail to act to ensure we support those veterans and their families.

America is better than this and we should demand that our leaders correct these issues without delay and provide for those that have provided for us over all these years.

We have a debt to pay to these patriots and their families, and that debt has now come due.