Veterans Day: Here are three ways to say thank you and mean it

By Justin Roberts

Published November 10, 2017

A​ ​few​ ​months​ ​ago,​ ​I​ ​called​ ​a​ ​pastor​ ​about​ ​a​ ​new​ ​campaign​ ​to​ ​connect​ ​veterans​ ​and​ ​their communities.​ ​I​ ​wanted​ ​a​ ​cup​ ​of​ ​coffee​ ​with​ ​him,​ ​a​ ​chance​ ​to​ ​ask​ ​a​ ​few​ ​questions.​ ​His church,​ ​large​ ​and​ ​influential,​ ​had​ ​no​ ​outreach​ ​for​ ​veterans,​ ​no​ ​veteran​ ​program,​ ​no partnership​ ​with​ ​even​ ​one​ ​local​ ​veteran​ ​organization.   

No greater love veterans day op-ed

The​ ​pastor​ ​was​ ​curt​ ​with​ ​me.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​no​ ​time,​ ​he​ ​said,​ ​but​ ​“thank​ ​you​ ​for​ ​your​ ​service”​ ​-- and​ ​while​ ​full​ ​schedules​ ​I​ ​understand,​ ​his​ ​closing​ ​phrase​ ​felt​ ​like​ ​warm​ ​spit​ ​in​ ​my​ ​face.   

First,​ ​he​ ​couldn’t​ ​know​ ​what​ ​to​ ​thank​ ​me​ ​for.​ ​Second,​ ​he​ ​didn’t​ ​mean​ ​it.​ ​Still,​ ​why​ ​feel​ ​the sting?​ ​Why​ ​let​ ​insincerity​ ​matter?​ ​Because​ ​I​ ​know​ ​firsthand​ ​that​ ​false​ ​gratitude​ ​leads​ ​to inaction,​ ​and​ ​that​ ​fake​ ​flag​ ​waving​ ​masks​ ​a​ ​quiet​ ​and​ ​deadly​ ​epidemic.   

No greater love veterans day op-ed

War​ ​is​ ​not​ ​the​ ​chief​ ​killer​ ​of​ ​service​ ​men​ ​and​ ​women.​ ​Suicide​ ​is.​ ​Every​ ​day,​ ​20​ ​or​ ​more veterans​ ​die​ ​not​ ​in​ ​battle​ ​but​ ​by​ ​their​ ​own​ ​hands,​ ​and​ ​that​ ​tragedy​ ​is​ ​just​ ​one​ ​symptom. Addictions,​ ​depression,​ ​homelessness,​ ​and​ ​damaged​ ​relationships​ ​also​ ​tear​ ​through those​ ​who​ ​have​ ​served.   

These​ ​problems​ ​hardly​ ​define​ ​all​ ​veterans​ ​and​ ​service​ ​members--many​ ​are​ ​successful and​ ​stable--but​ ​the​ ​problems​ ​are​ ​significant,​ ​and​ ​we​ ​ignore​ ​them​ ​at​ ​high​ ​risk​ ​to​ ​us​ ​all. Until​ ​our​ ​society​ ​finds​ ​the​ ​life-giving​ ​ground​ ​between​ ​closing​ ​its​ ​eyes​ ​or​ ​perpetuating​ ​the “broken​ ​veteran”​ ​stereotype,​ ​we​ ​fail​ ​the​ ​men​ ​and​ ​women​ ​who​ ​did​ ​not​ ​fail​ ​us.   

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So,​ ​as​ ​a​ ​country,​ ​people​ ​ask​ ​me,​ ​how​ ​do​ ​we​ ​heal​ ​our​ ​soldiers’​ ​wounds?​ ​Three​ ​actions,​ ​I often​ ​say,​ ​give​ ​us​ ​all​ ​a​ ​profoundly​ ​good​ ​start:   

1. Become​ ​informed   

You​ ​don’t​ ​need​ ​latest​ ​VA​ ​statistics​ ​or​ ​in-depth​ ​military​ ​knowledge​ ​to​ ​help​ ​warriors​ ​come home.​ ​Awareness​ ​of​ ​the​ ​front,​ ​however,​ ​and​ ​stories​ ​of​ ​their​ ​war,​ ​build​ ​an​ ​important bridge​ ​of​ ​understanding.   

Stories​ ​are​ ​how​ ​we​ ​transcribe​ ​life--they​ ​are​ ​engines​ ​for​ ​empathy.​ ​Our​ ​new​ ​documentary captures​ ​the​ ​stories​ ​of​ ​my​ ​fellow​ ​soldiers,​ ​first,​ ​on​ ​the​ ​battlefield,​ ​and​ ​then​ ​as​ ​they​ ​come home.​ ​What​ ​happens​ ​here,​ ​the​ ​film​ ​is​ ​saying,​ ​multiply​ ​by​ ​thousands​ ​and​ ​millions​ ​of soldiers.​ ​To​ ​know​ ​some​ ​stories​ ​is​ ​to​ ​want​ ​to​ ​support​ ​all​ ​soldiers,​ ​and​ ​that​ ​leads​ ​to number​ ​two.   

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2.​ ​​If​ ​you​ ​support​ ​the​ ​troops,​ ​make​ ​it​ ​active:​ ​Adopt​ ​a​ ​veteran​ ​organization. 

The​ ​return-to-life​ ​groundswell​ ​our​ ​military​ ​needs​ ​can​ ​start​ ​with​ ​two​ ​simple​ ​questions​ ​to every​ ​American​ ​at​ ​home:​ ​Do​ ​you​ ​support​ ​your​ ​military?​ ​If​ ​so,​ ​how?​ ​Taxes​ ​don’t​ ​count​ ​as support.​ ​Troops​ ​pay​ ​taxes,​ ​too,​ ​and​ ​it’s​ ​no​ ​choice.​ ​“Support,”​ ​meanwhile,​ ​is​ ​an​ ​choice. Choose​ ​a​ ​veterans’​ ​organization​ ​and​ ​donate​ ​your​ ​money,​ ​or​ ​time,​ ​or​ ​both.​ ​Even​ ​a​ ​small amount​ ​of​ ​action​ ​takes​ ​sentiment​ ​to​ ​something​ ​far​ ​more.   

In​ ​​No Greater Love, a​ ​soldier​ ​is​ ​wounded​ ​by​ ​a​ ​suicide​ ​bomber​ ​and​ ​lives​ ​now​ ​with shrapnel​ ​in​ ​his​ ​brain.​ ​For​ ​seven​ ​years,​ ​this​ ​man​ ​fought​ ​to​ ​get​ ​proper​ ​help​ ​from​ ​the​ ​VA. Seven years. Enter​ ​Paralyzed​ ​Veterans​ ​of​ ​America​ ​to​ ​help​ ​him​ ​navigate​ ​bureaucracy and​ ​paperwork,​ ​tasks​ ​made​ ​more​ ​complex​ ​for​ ​a​ ​man​ ​with​ ​a​ ​brain​ ​injury.​ ​If​ ​not​ ​for​ ​PVA, this​ ​U.S.​ ​soldier​ ​would​ ​still​ ​be​ ​fighting​ ​for​ ​benefits​ ​or​ ​short​ ​on​ ​care. 

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3.​ ​​ ​Learn​ ​what​ ​veterans​ ​know   

Scenes​ ​most​ ​people​ ​can’t​ ​imagine​ ​are​ ​the​ ​events​ ​many​ ​veterans​ ​are​ ​struggling​ ​to​ ​forget, yet​ ​the​ ​worst​ ​thing​ ​a​ ​traumatized​ ​man​ ​or​ ​woman​ ​can​ ​do​ ​is​ ​to​ ​bury​ ​and​ ​numb​ ​the​ ​past. Hard​ ​memories​ ​handled​ ​with​ ​brothers​ ​and​ ​sisters,​ ​family​ ​members,​ ​and​ ​possibly counselors,​ ​can​ ​lead​ ​to​ ​the​ ​strength​ ​of​ ​what​ ​is​ ​called​ ​Post​ ​Traumatic​ ​Growth,​ ​and​ ​that’s the​ ​goal.   

But​ ​what​ ​does​ ​their​ ​trauma​ ​model​ ​for​ ​us?​ ​Answer:​ ​willingness​ ​to​ ​die​ ​for​ ​a​ ​fellow​ ​soldier, despite​ ​personal​ ​differences.​ ​On​ ​the​ ​mountaintops​ ​of​ ​Afghanistan,​ ​the​ ​truth​ ​came​ ​to​ ​me clearly​ ​that​ ​Americans​ ​there​ ​were​ ​dying​ ​for​ ​each​ ​other​ ​in​ ​spite​ ​of​ ​their​ ​differences​ ​while, back​ ​home,​ ​Americans​ ​were​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​kill​ ​each​ ​other​ ​because​ ​of​ ​them.   

Not​ ​once,​ ​not​ ​twice,​ ​but​ ​daily​ ​I​ ​saw​ ​soldiers​ ​commit​ ​acts​ ​of​ ​valor​ ​and​ ​sacrifice​ ​on​ ​behalf of​ ​soldiers​ ​nothing​ ​like​ ​them​ ​except​ ​for​ ​the​ ​common​ ​cause​ ​to​ ​serve​ ​their​ ​country.​ ​This​ ​is what​ ​soldiers​ ​know​ ​that​ ​all​ ​of​ ​America​ ​is​ ​short​ ​on.   

No greater love veterans day op-ed

Not​ ​everyone​ ​will​ ​serve​ ​in​ ​war,​ ​but​ ​we​ ​all​ ​can​ ​serve​ ​each​ ​other.​ ​It’s​ ​no​ ​offence​ ​to​ ​thank​ ​soldiers for​ ​their​ ​service.​ ​It’s​ ​offensive​ ​for​ ​the​ ​“thanks”​ ​to​ ​be​ ​empty,​ ​ignorant​ ​of​ ​sacrifice.​ ​Get​ ​the​ ​stories, step​ ​up​ ​to​ ​support,​ ​and​ ​learn​ ​what​ ​veterans​ ​know.​ ​Cross​ ​the​ ​aisles​ ​and​ ​stand​ ​for​ ​those​ ​who have​ ​stood​ ​for​ ​you.   

Happy​ ​Veterans​ ​Day. 

In​ ​Afghanistan,​ ​Chaplain​ ​Justin​ ​Roberts​ ​carried​ ​a​ ​camera​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​a​ ​weapon.​ ​The​ ​result​ ​is​ ​NO GREATER​ ​LOVE,​ ​the​ ​first​ ​documentary​ ​filmed​ ​by​ ​an​ ​active​ ​duty​ ​soldier--now​ ​opening​ ​in​ ​select theaters​ ​on​ ​Veterans​ ​Day​ ​weekend.​ ​To​ ​know​ ​more​ ​of​ ​our​ ​troops’​ ​stories--on​ ​the​ ​front​ ​and coming​ ​home--see​ ​​NO​ ​GREATER​ ​LOVE​​ ​in​ ​theaters.​ ​Or​ ​​bring​ ​it​ ​to​ ​your​ ​town​.

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/11/10/veterans-day-here-are-three-ways-to-say-thank-and-mean-it.html