This is my first post here on MilitarySpot.com, and I am honored to be able to share information with the veteran and military community. My name is Doug, and I am a United States Navy veteran. I am also the Veteran Outreach Director at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, where I conduct outreach with veterans and military support organizations on the web and blog about related news – mainly, news related to the health of veterans. While our biggest push is to increase awareness of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that impacts hundreds of veterans each year (30% of those happen to be Navy veterans), we also provide general health content to vets and members of the military, like information about PTSD and Hepatitis C and more.
Veterans Day 2010 seems like the perfect time for me to compose my inaugural post for MilitarySpot.com. Last year, on my Veterans Blog, I gave our readers a quick Veterans Day history lesson, threw out some numbers from the previous census, shared a photo and some quotes from famous leaders, and highlighted the issue of mesothelioma and veterans. But this year, I wanted to talk about the people I refer to as ‘Today’s Veterans.’
Who is today’s veteran? Well, I’m referring specifically to those who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Today’s veteran returns home and may not even be 21 years old. They’re both male, and female (didn’t have women returning from the front lines after WWII!) and they require a very specialized type of support upon making the transition from Active Duty to Veteran. Many of them haven’t been to college yet. This, of course, means that they’d need quite a bit of job training before they could secure any job, and without a degree, their job search becomes even more difficult. Many were married at a very young age, and return home to not only a new spouse that they may hardly know, but often an infant as well. All of a sudden, they’re faced with a million questions and challenges – how will I support my family and myself? Who will hire me? How can I get an education? How will I afford healthcare? – among others.
After WWII, no one returned home and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The vets who returned home and were injured emotionally and mentally – not necessarily physically – did not receive the same type of care that today’s veteran does. Many civilians have no idea that 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan vets suffer from PTSD. Of course, this percentage only accounts for those who report their symptoms to a physician and begin treatment (in addition, 10% of Desert Storm vets and about 30% of Vietnam vets also suffer from PTSD). Now, veterans can receive support from the VA for their PTSD symptoms. While PTSD is one of those military health issues that you hear about all of the time, there are, of course, other health and general concerns plaguing today’s veteran. Thankfully, there are hundreds of groups out there (just do an Internet search for ‘veteran support’) that are devoted to supporting veterans and members of the military. I’d like to take a moment to share just a couple of those groups with you:
Adopt A US Soldier – www.adoptaussoldier.org – is a group that provides simple words of encouragement from home to those serving overseas. The impact of a simple ‘Thank You’ to a veteran is bigger than you might think.
ProVets.org – www.provets.org – supports the education of veterans and military. Their slogan is “Turning Soldiers & Their Families into Graduates.’
Special Packages – https://supportourtroops.org/ – sends care boxes containing items specifically requested by the men and women deployed overseas.
Those are just a few of the organizations that rely on donations to keep them afloat.
What else can we do to support today’s veteran? Connect them with other veterans. Witnessing today’s veteran have a conversation with a WWII or Vietnam vet, for example, is a powerful thing. While today’s veteran’s experience differs from that of the individuals who served before them, their is an undeniable sense of brotherhood, and a connection and sense of understanding that only veterans can have with one another.
As Veterans Day approaches, take a moment, if even in your own thoughts, to consider the sacrifice of our military men and women, and their families. If you see a veteran (lots of vets wear their ‘Vietnam Veteran’ hats proudly, all year round! And it’s a safe bet that someone’s a member of the military if you see them wearing camo) stop them and say ‘Hey, thanks for your service.’ Proudly fly your American flag at home (and take it down at night, unless you’ve got a light shining on it!). Consider adopting a soldier. No matter what you do, remember that even the smallest of actions have an impact.
To learn more about the types of health concerns faced by today’s veterans, as well as all veterans, please visit the Veteran section on the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance website.