Veterans Day

11Nov13

NCIRE is the organization I have been working with for the past six months or so, while working on the John Mayer tour. We are starting back up in a few weeks, and I’m really excited to be able to continue to build support for what they do: getting vets better access to health care and support services. As a culture, we ‘thank’ our vets, but the reality is many of them struggle with their day to day needs. The stories I heard this summer from the vets that volunteered, or the vets and active duty military that stopped by to talk to us, left me stunned and angry and wishing there was more I could do. It got to a point where I realized those ‘rare’ stories of hardship and loss that vets suffer aren’t rare at all. They are, for many, the norm. It’s a cliche thing to say, but working on this project impacted me in a way that few other projects have.

My maternal grandfather, Ernest ‘Pat’ Moore, served in WWII; he kept a pet dog illicitly while still stationed in the US, made a lot of friends, crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary “playing cards in the bathtub”, got to Europe and the war was over.  By his own accounts, he lucked out.  He missed Normandy by weeks and never saw the clean up horror of the camps that many others did. My paternal grandfather however, Bill Jackson, was by all accounts destroyed by the Korean War. His burgeoning baseball career (he was a pitcher on the farm team for Pittsburgh, and according to my father, had a batting average that all but guaranteed he would have had at least a season in the majors had he not gone to war) was ruined by the frostbite that attacked his ankles and wrists, and his war journals are full of horror – it took me years to convince my father to let me see them. I had this realization over the summer, as I trained my volunteers day in and day out about what NCIRE does, that he suffered from PDST. All the stories I’d heard about him started to add up: my grandmother remembering him cowering for years whenever airplanes flew overhead, my father’s memory of him sobbing uncontrollably when a family pet was run over by a car. He died an alcoholic when I was about six or so, some of that his own doing, for sure, but I can’t but help wonder what his life would have looked like had he gotten treatment and support. He was about 20 when he went overseas – it defined his entire adult life.

So, anyway, we talk the talk, and granted, there isn’t much one person can do, but these stories of vets waiting 18 months to get approved for disability after literally being blown up while oversees (a story I heard so many times, unsolicited, this summer that it statistically can’t be the ‘anomaly’), of losing homes and limbs and jobs and not getting any support, is atrocious. The VA estimates that 22 veterans a DAY commit suicide – a DAY! – and admits that number is likely low due to incomplete data. It’s a silent epidemic; most vets won’t be their own advocates, one doesn’t bite the hand that is at least suppose to feed them, and the culture of the military is such that one often doesn’t want to speak up. It’s on us to demand more, to make this go beyond a token day of appreciation. Regardless of how one feels about war and conflict the bottom line is that those who serve 1. are often from lower socio-economic means and don’t have the ability to ‘just take care of these things’ themselves, and 2. a contract is a contract. We, as a culture, are not holding up on our end of the contract right now. And it’s going to require a cultural shift to make that happen.

Image

My paternal grandfather, Bill Jackson

Image

The infamous Pat Moore in uniform.

Advertisements


One Response to “Veterans Day”

  1. Reblogged this on Brande Jackson and commented:

    My thoughts on Veteran’s Day from a year ago…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: