Beyond the parades: Ways to celebrate Veterans Day [The conversation]
On this Veterans Day, we wanted to highlight various opinions on how to show gratitude and respect to our military service members long after the day is over. The following is a selection of perspectives on the holiday from around the Web. They cover everything from veterans healthcare and employment to soldiers overlooked by history to a mother's homefront struggle.
Honor through employment
Military service offers many Americans the opportunity to develop a wide range of technical, organizational and management skills. When military members return to civilian life, they bring this wealth of knowledge and experience to the civilian workplace. Still, many veterans struggle to find work. One of the cruelest twists of the current economic crisis is the high rate of unemployment among military veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unemployment among recent veterans grew to 13.3% by June 2011, more than four percentage points higher than the national average. These dedicated, hardworking men and women risked their lives protecting us. Why are so many of them unemployed?
High rates of unemployment among veterans stem from a number of underlying issues, including the challenge of comparing military experiences to civilian job requirements and connecting employers to available veteran employees. According to a June 2010 SHRM survey, 60% of responding HR professionals viewed translating military skills to the civilian job experience as a challenge to employing veterans. On the other hand, over 70% of HR professionals indicated that they want assistance in identifying and reaching out to qualified veterans.
Respectable health insurance for our soldiers
On this Veterans Day, our military forces are engaged in continuing conflict that has lasted longer than any war in our nation's history. As a Marine Corps veteran, I have experienced men and women who served for decades, returning home to find the country's promise of medical care for them and their families being unfulfilled.
In my experience, our uniformed service members aren't asking for any special "deal" for their service. What they do expect is that we fulfill our pledge of medical care for them and their families. They are not looking for elite care. Very few will be looking for treatment by the proverbial "Park Avenue" practitioners.
The sad truth is that when TRICARE clients need medical treatment from the same people who woke up to the horrors of 9/11, they have to go "out of network" for treatment. As anyone who has had this experience knows, going "out of network" is a financial and emotional strain. First you must pay the practitioner for medical care, which is a burden for those with few financial resources, then you need to submit multiple complex documents, and in the end, you are uncertain of how much reimbursement will be allowed.
Overlooked combatants get their due
When German torpedoes off the coast of Greenland sunk the USAT Dorchester on Feb. 3, 1943, four chaplains died, one Jewish, one Catholic, and two Protestant. They died because they gave away their life jackets in order to save others.
But on Chaplain's Hill, at Arlington National Cemetery, only three of these heroes are recognized. Monuments have long existed to honor the fallen chaplains of Catholic and Protestant faiths, but the Jewish chaplains never had a memorial -- that is, until now.
A number of groups, including The Jewish Federations of North America, the American Legion, and the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., have made it their mission over the past several years to reunite the Jewish Chaplain from the USAT Dorchester with the other chaplains who sacrificed their lives that day.
As a result of these efforts, which went all the way to Congress, in fact, there is now a special memorial to honor Rabbi Alexander Goode, right alongside 13 other Jewish chaplains, all who have died while serving their country.
Remembering to never forget
In Ivor Gurney's "To His Love" you see the thing happening not in mid-career but in mid-poem -- between lines, in a line break, specifically the last one. It's the most astonishing line break I've ever encountered. It's the sound of a culture's poetic history cracking in half.
"To His Love" begins as an almost doggedly traditional elegy, with the Byronic echo of "We'll walk no more on Cotswold." It meanders through rivers, beasts, flowers, and the old tropes -- nobility, "pride," "memoried." We are lulled into thinking that the urgency of "Cover him, cover him soon!" arises from intense soldierly love, rather than the desperate need to hide a shredded corpse, that "red, wet / Thing." The euphemistic Latinate decor is stripped away; the haplessly tall T does it's pitiful duty by the form, like a Tommy too shell-shocked to hide, a standing target.
The fragile Gurney was gassed and traumatized by the war, and he lived out his days in asylums. I never forget this poem of never forgetting:
He's gone, and all our plans
Are useless indeed.
We'll walk no more on Cotswolds
Where the sheep feed
Quietly and take no heed.
His body that was so quick
Is not as you
Knew it, on Severn River
Under the blue
Driving our small boat through.
You would not know him now …
But still he died
Nobly, so cover him over
With violets of pride
Purple from Severn side.
Cover him, cover him soon!
And with thick-set
Masses of memoried flowers --
Hide that red wet
Thing I must somehow forget.
A mother's homefront battle
On April 19, 2005, Debbie Schulz of Friendswood, Texas, got the call every parent of a service member in Iraq and Afghanistan dreads. Her child had been wounded. When she hung up the phone, in shock, all she knew was that her son was considered to be "VSI", an acronym that she would later learn meant: "very seriously injured."
More than 48 hours later Debbie began to learn some of the details. Her beloved eldest son, Steven Schulz, a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, had been patrolling Fallujah, Iraq when it happened. His unarmored humvee was hit by a roadside bomb, a mortar shell cleverly built into a concrete curb in order to elude detection. Insurgents remotely detonated the device and within the fraction of a second, thousands of pieces of shrapnel penetrated the vehicle. One piece of metal shrapnel flew into Steven's face near his right eye and lodged in his brain. Doctors told the family that he had sustained a severe traumatic brain injury and devastating damage to his right eye. Steven was paralyzed on his left side, lost most vision in his right eye as well as peripheral vision in his left.
-- Julia Gabrick
Photo: James Oliver, a veteran who is now in the reserves, pays his respects to fallen soldiers at Los Angeles National Cemetery in Westwood. Credit: Los Angeles Times