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Veterans Day 2014: Making ‘Thank you for your service’ more meaningful

Veterans Day 2014: Making ‘Thank you for your service’ more meaningful

November 07, 2014

By Robert Lathers
Ionia County Community Mental Health

Posted Nov. 7, 2014 @ 5:05 pm


Our family is part of the 1 percent of families in the United States who currently have or have had an immediate family member serve in the U.S. military. I am the parent of a three-time deployed U.S. Marine who recently completed eight years of active duty and has now returned to civilian life. His time and experiences will be with him for the rest of his life. I cannot know these experiences in any real way, except what he chooses to share with me. But, I do know that I am critical to his return to civilian life.
Lots of people have told my son, "Thank You for your service," when they become aware he is a veteran, and I have been with him on a number of these occasions. They generally will never see him again. The truth is that, the families of veterans have inherited the most primary responsibility of assisting the veterans return and readjust to community life. As a community I think we can all work to make "Thank you for your service" more meaningful.
There is no doubt that gratitude from the community and its residents is important. However, as one veteran recently shared with me, "Everyone thanks me for my service, but it seems like nobody wants to give me a good job." While this statement does not apply to everyone who serves, the question is: Should it apply to anyone who serves?
Dr. Anthony Bacevich, a recently retired professor from Boston University who is a West Point graduate, a Vietnam veteran and whose own son died in the Iraq war, as a member of the U.S. military has written a powerful book titled, "Breach of Trust." In the preface of the book, Dr. Bacevich shares the story of Airman Bridget Lydon who, at the request of the Boston Red Sox, surprised her family on July 4 at Fenway Park in Boston. Then Bacevich, a frequent guest on Bill Moyers and PBS, implicitly asks, "What's next?" What happens to Bridget and her family after this meeting at the pitcher's mound? Is this what "Thank you for your service" means? A pat on the back and a return to the game while the Lydons find their seats? Is this the limited extent of involvement for the rest of America — being part of the ballgame where this occurs?
On Veterans Day this year, let's commit in our community to making real our appreciation for the willingness and sacrifice of our veterans as a way of truly thanking them for their service. Let's commit to identifying and supporting their needs from employment efforts and housing to counseling services and even our support for serving as mentors for Veterans Court. Let's show the Red Sox what "Thank you for your service" really means.
(In upcoming Weekend editions, the topics of employment, the importance of sleep health, and a recently improved method for veterans to access VA counseling and other services locally will be explained.)

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