November 20, 2017

Guest Column: One way to really thank a veteran

By James Ehlers

On this Veterans’ Day, while I greatly appreciate the emails, texts and messages thanking me for my service, please know that my sacrifices were few in comparison to many with whom I served. In fact, the gifts I have received in the form of the life-long fellowship of my brothers-and-sisters-in-arms make all the hardships seem but a small investment.

This Veterans’ Day, let us all demand that our elected officials who have sent us to war, under whatever pretext, accelerate even further the overhaul of the Veterans Administration (VA). No nation, but especially not ours, can afford endless wars if we cannot afford to care for those sent to do the fighting in our name.

I ask everyone, today, to please send their elected officials a note, leave them a message or post to their social media pages demanding that our nation do more than just thank our vets, but that we see to their care. We must demand that veterans get the same medical care our elected officials bestow upon themselves.

Most urgently, the VA needs to acknowledge the medical science behind the poison Agent Orange and extend benefits to our Vietnam veterans suffering the ill effects of exposure to this potent toxin. No less important is the need to restore the cuts just made to the Veterans Outreach Program here in Vermont, a program critical to ensuring no Vermonter feels so abandoned or betrayed by our country that they tragically join the 20 veterans a day in America taking their own life.

While most of our fellow Americans enjoy a paid day off, many of our brothers and sisters will never be able to take a holiday from their sacrifices on behalf of our nation. No American sailor, soldier or airman should be on a waiting list for medical care, either mental or physical, or worse, denied care. Celebrate this Veterans’ Day by enlisting your friends to serve our veterans in need. You know they would do the same for us and our nation when in need. They already have. And they continue to do so right now.

This, I believe, is the best way you can thank a vet. In the eyes of this one man honored to have donned the uniform worn by scores of Americans far more courageous than myself, we need to see to it that our brothers and sisters are not forgotten in the hype of parades and sales and the sensationalism of war. Please, show your gratitude by caring for our band of brothers and sisters. Make the call. Make the post. Send the email. Please.

Join with me in supporting those still fighting, not a foreign enemy, but our own government agencies. Enlist a friend a today. Send the note. Make the call. Make the post. Then we can begin to make it truly a happy Veterans’ Day today and tomorrow and the next day. It is the least we can do for those who have given so much.

James Ehlers is a U.S. Navy veteran and founder of Lake Champlain International. He is running for governor of Vermont as a Democrat in the 2018 election.

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