Veterans Day calls for more than gratitude for the military men and women who have served this country. It calls for a renewed commitment to support them in their transition to civilian life.
The day calls to mind the deep sacrifices of active duty — stress, injury, loss and physical danger; the friends and family left behind — but the sacrifices made by Washington’s more than half-million veterans and their families are not limited to deployment, nor do they stop at the end of their service. As a direct result of their willingness to put their personal lives on hold during years of enlistment, veterans can experience unique barriers to employment, health and opportunity. It is our duty to help remove those barriers, as U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said in an interview last week.
Much of that work falls to lawmakers. Most recently, Sen. Murray, the daughter of a disabled World War II veteran and staunch advocate for veterans, has been monitoring implementation of the MISSION Act, enacted this past summer to give veterans greater access to medical care.
At the statehouse, several bills are in the works that would expand and fine-tune laws intended to help veterans and their families, encouraging state agencies to award contracts to veteran-owned businesses, increasing employment opportunities for military spouses and expanding higher education tuition waivers for family of veterans and National Guard members with disabilities. Other bills would address health concerns, including one that would establish a statewide plan to reduce suicide among veterans, service members and their families. In total, there are 45 bills that were put into play during the last legislative session that could be taken up again this year.
Meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse veteran population is an ongoing responsibility. As Murray said, “We had them sign up to fight for us, based on the fact that when they came home after serving our country, we would be there for them.” That obligation cannot be ignored.
This obligation is not borne only by policymakers. As Murray said, all people can show active gratitude through small acts of kindness that recognize the unique struggles veterans often face. A weeknight dinner, an offer to watch the kids for a while and other small gestures can give new meaning to “thanks for your service.”
As they gave, so they deserve.