What is America’s shame? Some would say that politics, moral decay and recently a lack of a belief in a higher power are America’s shame. However, in my opinion America’s greatest shame is in the treatment of our veterans.
Why do I say this? I say it because in seven decades on this planet, I have witnessed it firsthand. Volumes have been written about the wars that the United States has been involved in since her inception.
Did you know that shortly after the Civil War in America that returning Union veterans had to fight for their benefits? These brave men and women were the winners. The Confederate veterans fared worse.
Why was this? In my lifetime, I have seen the treatment that our veterans have received. We simply do not do enough to honor our returning men and women.
The other day, I decided to clean my driveway, so I got the trusty snowblower out. We are fortunate to have one of my best friends living in the same neighborhood. He is a Vietnam veteran. What makes him special? He is a paraplegic veteran.
Well, you see, like many of the ‘Nam era, he was not given a hero’s welcome when he returned.
Did he necessarily want one? I doubt it. But he did want the respect that all veterans deserve. During that war, many were running off to Canada to evade the draft.
Not my neighbor. America had her traitors, Jane Fonda and John Kerry to name just two. She also had her heroes, John McCain and countless thousands that fought and some who were killed, maimed or captured. I thank God daily for the brave men and women that fought in this war and others like it to protect my freedom and the freedom of my child and my grandchildren.
My neighbor went and fought in my place. Some returned. Some did not. When he moved into our neighborhood, we became close friends.
What makes him special? Even though he is confined to a wheelchair, it is his attitude. He is a double amputee. I have known him since 1978. He has never once complained about his plight. When I grumble about going out to start my truck on a cold winter morning or shoveling snow, I think of the difficulties he has in starting his vehicle or even cleaning off the snow and ice from his vehicle.
I am given pause to even think about my plight. Here is a man who was given up for dead in the rice fields of ‘Nam. But, by God’s grace, he was spared.
Over the course of almost four decades, he has not shared a lot with me about his experiences. I don’t ask. They are his personal hell. I just know that whatever I, my wife or just about anybody on this street can do for him, it would never make up for the sacrifice that he made for my family.
The interesting thing about the men and women who fought in this war to protect our freedom is this simple fact: they do not consider themselves heroes. I consider them heroes. We need to do all we can to honor our veterans — and not just on Veterans Day or with parades. We need to honor them by volunteering to assist them in what we consider everyday or mundane chores.
Veterans are proud people and may say that they do not want your help. You can still support many fine organizations.
You can help by volunteering at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center. Talk to my good friend, Dave Espich, of the New Palestine American Legion post. If you live in a surrounding area, simply check local listings for organizations that cater to our veterans.
Get your Boy Scout, Girl Scout or local service organization to help out. Have your church reach out to these folks.
So what is America’s shame? Simply put, it is the way we approach or veterans.
Now how does America’s greatest shame come into play? This author does not feel that we do enough to honor these brave men and women.
Parades and being patriotic on Veterans Day is a good start; however, it should be a 365-day-a-year scenario.
One only needs to check the statistics on our returning veterans. I submit to you that nothing we as individuals or a country do will ever be enough. Just like in our neighborhood, you personally need to get involved.
C.O. Montgomery of New Palestine is a former teacher and Sugar Creek Township trustee. Send comments to email@example.com.