Veterans: Thank you for your service

Each year, it seems, we have fewer and fewer veterans to honor for their service. Some have died from old age, others from lingering injuries or illnesses caused by their service to their country. Too many commit suicide.
A son and grandson find the name of a cherished relative on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, DC. (Photo by Doug Thompson).

Nearly all of my employers in my working life have not closed on Veterans Day. The one exception was the United States Congress, where I worked as a staff member from 1981-87.

The Society of Human Resource Management polled workers in 2010 and found that only about 21 percent of employers recognize Veterans Day as a holiday for their employees.

As a 71-year-old contract newspaperman, I now have the option of working or not working on this or any other Veterans Day. As a general rule, I don’t.

Carilion Clinic, however, is one of those employers who choose to remain open on the day to honor veterans and I have an appointment at 9:20 a.m. to deal with a continuing medical issue. Then the rest of the day belongs to me and Amy.

A stop at Buffalo Mountain Church cemetery is on today’s schedule to honor my maternal grandfather, Walter McPeak, a veteran who survived World War I. Last week, I ordered a wreath to be laid at the tombstone of my dad, William D. (Tommy) Thompson, Sr., in Tampa, Florida. He died in an industrial accident at age 29, when I was nine months old. He was joined by my mother when I brought her ashes down to be with him after she died at age 89.

A young girl presses a flower next to the name of a relative who died in the Vietnam war. This photo was taken on Veterans Day, 1999.

Then a stop at the Veterans Cemetery in Dublin is in order. Longtime friend Adrian Cronauer, the armed forces disc jockey whose experiences lied to the movie Good Morning Vietnam, and his wife, Jean, are buried there. So are others I know who died in Vietnam.

Maybe I’ll stop for lunch at one of the restaurants that feed veterans and current servicemen and women. I can expect to see friends there but I will probably learn that some from past lunches died in the last year.

Each year, it seems, we have fewer and fewer veterans to honor for their service. Some have died from old age, others from lingering injuries or illnesses caused by their service to their country. Too many commit suicide.

The Veterans Administration says an average of 17 veterans kill themselves every day. Many suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but could not get adequate help from a VA that is overcrowded with patients and underfunded by a government that doesn’t care. Suicides among younger veterans are up 10 percent and continue to rise, reports The Military Times.

In a moving speech at a ceremony with the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Illinois some years ago, Adrian Cronauer said he, like all other veterans, were promised by the military that their service would not be forgotten, and they would be cared for afterward.

“They lied,” he said.

Please take the time to thank any veteran you encounter on this Veterans Day — and any other day as well — and say: “Thank you for your service.” That’s a start. So much more needs to be done.

(Video below of Adrian Cronauer at a ceremony for the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall.)

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