Today’s post comes from Ian Lisman, Program and Policy Analyst on Veterans Homelessness. Ian is also a U.S. Army combat veteran of the first Gulf War.
As Memorial Day weekend approaches, it is nice to have time to spend with family, enjoy a barbeque, and get ready for summer. It is also a time to reflect on the sacrifices the men and women in uniform have made over the years. Wherever you weigh in on the various wars and conflicts our country has been involved in over the years, one thing transcends the political discussion of our nation’s foreign policy outcomes: the dedication of our armed forces.
These service members come from all backgrounds: socioeconomic, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, and political viewpoint. They take an oath to serve a cause greater than themselves: the Constitution of the United States of America. These service members commit themselves to defend and uphold our laws and values. By doing so, they give up a portion of those very rights they are charged to defend.
The sacrifices are many: separation from families and loved ones; long working hours in harsh environments; the obligation to obey lawful orders they may disagree with on personal, political, or even religious grounds. And, in keeping with Memorial Day, they may give the ultimate sacrifice, their lives.
Why would someone choose to sacrifice so much, in return for so little? The personal reasons people make the decision to join the military are as varied as the uniqueness of their background. Some join because of family tradition, patriotism, seeking a challenge or adventure, serving a cause greater than themselves, to escape a desperate environment, seeking opportunities, and on and on.
In return for their service, veterans ask for very little: a job and education, respect, dignity. One thing service members should not have to worry about when they return from their service in an uncaring, ungrateful nation that forgets the sacrifices we have made. Ensuring that no veteran is homeless has got to be a part of the nation’s response. As our nation’s first President, George Washington, noted: “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”