Editorial

A new generation of America’s veterans have joined those honored this weekend.

Men and women who served in the nation’s longest war in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned home as recently as this past year were celebrated anew this Veterans Day for their duty to our nation. Of course, the celebrations also thanked the Greatest Generation of remaining World War II heroes, our Korean War vets, those who fought in Vietnam as well as others, such as those who served in conflicts like the invasion of Panama toward the end of the past century.

Somehow, parades just aren’t enough to thank you for your service. But they’re a start.

As are the other celebrations to show our veterans how much we appreciate their contributions and sacrifices to our society to ensure democracy continues in our constitutional republic.

In Victoria County, we also say thanks beyond celebrations and parades through our Veterans Services office, which provides assistance to those wending their way through the maze of government paper snafus and offers help in other areas as needed.

The Victoria Advocate salutes America’s veterans annually on Veterans Day, and tries to do so the other 364 days of the year as well. We are honored to have veterans, as well as parents and spouses of vets, on our staff in various roles. We also write articles about veterans throughout the year and report on the celebrations that have become the yearly Warrior’s Weekend.

We should all show our respect to vets young and old because they are us. We are a nation of citizen soldiers, men and women who volunteer their time, and their lives, to protect the freedoms we too often take for granted.

As we’re one-fifth of the way through this century and the Middle East war began soon after the 2000s began, this new generation of veterans is returning home with a different set of scars than those of their predecessors. Just as technology changes with time, so do methods of destruction. And because the conflicts in the Middle East lasted as long as they did, some have returned after serving several tours of duty stretching nearly a decade, and in some instances longer. They bring with them emotional injuries that can take a deeper toll than many physical wounds.

Battles were not quite like the horrors of guerrilla skirmishes in Vietnam, nor the lines-in-the sand conflagrations of World War II. Those were horrible enough. Add to that the many instances when the enemy was a child planting an improvised explosive on a road, or a kid running into a crowd with a bomb strapped to his or her body. How do you erase that from your memory?

You don’t. But with help from neighbors and government agencies like the Veterans Services Office, veterans can learn to cope with the PTSD inflicted by the war, just as previous generations of vets were treated for “shell shock” upon arrival stateside.

This is where these agencies can help most. And, of course, we — as good neighbors — can share in that task by welcoming veterans home, thanking them for their service and offering to help as they resume normal lives.

So the next time you meet a vet, don’t just thank him or her for their service. Take an action, such as offering a job, suggesting help or, best of all, getting to know the person, the citizen and the soldier. After all, learning about the past is one of the best paths we can all take to avoid repeating it.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.