Since the establishment of Veterans Day in 1954, millions of American veterans have died of natural causes — some tragically, some peacefully. As of November 2020, more than 4,000 veterans’ lives have been claimed by the hands of a widespread yet preventable disease: COVID-19. As would be expected of a pandemic, every person, regardless of nationality or age, has been touched in some form by the easily-spread virus, but it is often those hurt the most that we acknowledge the least. The word “veterans” is tossed around with ease and little insight across a wide spectrum of political issues— whether it be regarding housing opportunities, employment of disabled soldiers, respect for the American flag, or general funding for the military, the discussions are endless. What is not endless, however, is the patience and endurance of our tired, aging, disabled vets.
Life as a soldier is by no means stable — there is the constant threat of fatality, psychological damage, physical pain, and loss of mobility. There are 17.4 million veterans in the U.S. as of today, and many remain plagued by misfortune in their daily lives. Men and women who have placed their lives under the command of the U.S. government make up 11 percent of the adult homeless population. Homelessness is not the only tragedy that follows veterans; nearly 30 percent of veterans suffer from some form of VA-related disability, 6.7 percent of veterans live in poverty, and the unemployment rate of veterans was nearly 12 percent as of May 2020. With the current pandemic, these veterans are not only losing their jobs at higher rates than in the 2008 recession, they are also placed in physical danger, as the threat of death looms over anyone who contracts the coronavirus. Beyond their physical safety being at risk right now, so too is the mental health of veterans — especially those who are physically disabled, immunocompromised, and/or senior citizens.
As I stated earlier, nearly every American has struggled at least somewhat emotionally under the restrictions of self-quarantine, veterans included. I feel it is necessary to state that while we celebrate Veterans Day and commemorate the valor and bravery of our veteran soldiers, we are also obligated to acknowledge the struggles they face as ordinary citizens without the same support they received while being members of the military.
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