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This Veterans Day we should honor those who served, not just enjoy holiday sales

OpinionThis Veterans Day we should honor those who served, not just enjoy holiday sales

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Veterans Day is a time to honor the brave men and women who have selflessly served our nation. It’s not just about parades, ceremonies or big-box store sales; it’s about recognizing and appreciating the sacrifices made by our veterans in service to this incredible nation, and addressing the unique challenges they face because of such selfless sacrifice. 

The transition from military service to civilian life, or even simply continuing to live a healthy life as a military service member, can be a complex and challenging journey. I’ve lived through it, and now I dedicate my life to helping others navigate the difficult process.  

For many veterans, it involves not only adjusting to a different lifestyle but also dealing with the physical, mental and spiritual wounds that often result from their service. This Veterans Day, I hope Americans will be willing to take a closer look at the difficulties that many veterans face, and more deeply appreciate their sacrifices and what it is they sacrificed for. 

WORLD WAR II HEROES, AGES 100 AND 98, FOUGHT IN BATTLE OF THE BULGE, NOW ARE GRAND MARSHALS OF PHILLY PARADE

I founded the Mighty Oaks Foundation to fill the existing gap in supporting struggling veterans, active-duty service members, and first responders as they find hope and healing. Our faith-based programs help attendees address and overcome the hidden wounds of war, like post-traumatic stress and combat trauma, and feel inspired to use their talents as they continue to serve their communities through a new mission.  

Veteran parade

A veteran holds an American flag during the annual Veterans Day Parade on November 11, 2022, in New York City.  (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Rather than languishing with a sense of purposelessness once their military missions are complete, we help them realize how valuable they still are to society, even if their new mission doesn’t involve combat. 

Tragically, military suicides occur at approximately four times the rate of deaths during military operations. And veterans are at significantly higher risk for suicide than U.S. non-veteran adults. After living high-intensity lives dictated by mission and purpose, the lack of a specific mission often leaves them feeling useless, unnecessary and burdensome.  

Many incorrectly assume that everyone around them would be better off without them here. This heartbreaking statistic highlights the urgent need to support the mental health of veterans and help them find a renewed sense of purpose. 

These brave men and women have been unwavering in their dedication to a mission of service to and in defense of our nation and freedoms. But instead of feeling our support as they grapple with the aftereffects of that service, they often face vilification in society and the media. They are overlooked by their own leaders, who often sweep their struggles under the rug.  

Veterans Day should serve as a reminder that those who have selflessly sacrificed for every American deserve not only our appreciation but also our support. 

One of the most significant hurdles veterans face is the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Far too often, individuals who have served our country feel that acknowledging their struggles is a sign of weakness — a trait which they have likely worked hard to purge from themselves. This stigma can prevent them from seeking the help they desperately need. 

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Too often, they cavalierly insist that someone else probably has it worse and deserves help more than them, further highlighting their willingness to selflessly sacrifice for others. But it’s our collective responsibility to change this narrative, making it clear that their mental health is a priority, and that it is an act of strength and courage, not weakness, to reach out for help. 

The Mighty Oaks Foundation plays a pivotal role in combating this stigma by providing a safe and supportive environment for veterans to open up about their experiences. Through our programs, veterans are encouraged to share their stories and connect with others who have faced similar challenges. By doing so, they begin to realize that they are not alone in their struggles and that there is hope for healing and recovery. 

These brave men and women have been unwavering in their dedication to a mission of service to and in defense of our nation and freedoms. But instead of feeling our support as they grapple with the aftereffects of that service, they often face vilification in society and the media. They are overlooked by their own leaders, who often sweep their struggles under the rug.  

After graduating from our programs with a renewed sense of hope and purpose, these brave men and women often turn around to reach out their hand to others who are struggling, helping them find new hope and purpose. Imagine how the outstretched hands of society could help those who have sacrificed so much to afford us the freedom and prosperity we so richly enjoy in this incredible nation.     

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A single day of recognition isn’t enough to fully appreciate the immense personal sacrifices made by men and women who love and serve you without even knowing you. As we commemorate Veterans Day, let us also remember that the process of healing is ongoing. It requires continuous effort, understanding and support from our communities. And in this time of unprecedented societal division, we should take every opportunity for community healing. 

Veterans Day should be about more than just barbecues and sales. It should be a reminder of the freedoms we enjoy in America and an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to supporting and honoring the veterans who sacrificed to safeguard those freedoms. As we come together as a nation in remembrance, appreciation and support, we can honor the heroes who have sacrificed so much for our freedom. 

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