Viewing Veterans' Day in the 21st Century

New programs to assist and honor veterans have come from different sectors of society.

“The greatest casualty is being forgotten.”

Three relatively new aspects of Veterans’ Day have come into existence within the last decade. The first is the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization founded in 2002 whose mission is “to honor and empower wounded warriors” of the United States Armed Forces. The WWP works “to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women, to help severely injured service members aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.” What started as the delivering of backpacks full of supplies and other items to the bedsides of injured soldiers has grown into a multi-dimensional national effort. There are programs designed to help wounded service men and women overcome their physical injuries and disabilities and programs designed to help them deal with mental and emotional problems. To insure that injured soldiers stay connected to one another, WWP has a peer mentoring and alumni program. There is also an economic empowerment program to assist wounded warriors to pursue a meaningful career or own a business. Education and information technology training are part of this program.For more information about the WWP, including ways to contribute, go to www.woundedwarriorproject.org

Operation Proper Exit brings American troops, gravely injured on the battlefield, back to Iraq to confront their haunting memories in order to get past them. The CBS news magazine “60 Minutes” aired a report this week about this relatively new program, which was proposed several years ago by a retired businessman and Walter Reed Medical Center volunteer but rejected by the Pentagon; it was given the go-ahead, however, by the commanding general in Iraq at the time. To date, a total of 68 soldiers and marines have been a part of this program. “60 Minutes” focused on several of the latest group of eight wounded warriors, including one double amputee who also lost his eyesight, another amputee, and one recipient of the Silver Star who is suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. The entire poignant story can be viewed or read on the “60 Minutes” website. I was moved by the courage of these very young men and their struggle to regain the life they had before their injuries, and I applaud both of these wounded warrior programs.

The third praiseworthy aspect of Veterans’ Day is “Joining Forces,” a program launched in April of this year by Michele Obama and Jill Biden. The purpose of this new campaign is “to encourage institutions, businesses, and individuals to help military families who serve and sacrifice so much everyday so that we can live in freedom and security.” The wives of the President and Vice-President have made it one of their causes since 2009 to gain support for military families from all sectors of our society. There are several websites with more information, including ways to contribute, about this national initiative.

The armistice ending the fighting of World War I took place at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, although the official treaty was signed the following June. Armistice Day became a national holiday in 1919. It was renamed Veterans’ Day in 1954.

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