OUR OPINION: Veterans deserve gratitude every day of the year

Published 8:00 am Friday, November 10, 2023

With all the festivities on both sides of the river this week and weekend, we hope our veterans feel loved and appreciated.

They should feel that every day, but they don’t.

Unfortunately for many veterans, when their military service ends, that’s when their troubles begin. And that’s a national shame.

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Too many veterans are homeless, even here in our community. Too many veterans return home from active duty and can’t find employment. Too many veterans need urgent medical and mental health care, but they are made to wait, often so long it’s too late. The suicide rate among U.S. veterans is nauseatingly high.

In a city like Vicksburg, with a large military research presence, we have a high number of veterans in our population. These men and women might not always wear clothing that indicates their time served, or have the word “VETERAN” stamped across their foreheads, but chances are, they’re the people you pass in the grocery store, the ones sitting in the church pew behind you — even the deputy writing your traffic ticket.

While far too many over the years have made the ultimate sacrifice and not returned home, there are even more who are here and are deserving of honor and respect — both for their own merit and the spirits they carry with them.

As conversations about mental health become more and more commonplace, we need to exercise compassion and understanding with our veterans who may be struggling. Due to their experiences while deployed in foreign lands — or even simply the struggles they face while reintegrating into society — an estimated 22 veterans per day take their own lives.

Perhaps letting a veteran know that you do appreciate their service, or taking things one step further and listening to the stories they have to tell, could be the thing that keeps them going.

So on Saturday, make a pledge to thank a veteran, but don’t stop there — thank them every other day, too.

Veterans Day is every day for the men and women who served. And it should be for us, as well.