When soldiers returning from the Vietnam War stepped off plane stairs and onto American soil, there weren’t throngs of citizens with arms wide open shouting “welcome home!”
Instead, the picture looked like this: angry protesters stood where, normally, smiling faces would have been. They shouted obscenities, called the troops “baby killers” and even spat on them. Some didn’t wear their medals for years for fear of public backlash.
Today, that narrative has changed. We acknowledge and honor the 58,148 Americans killed in the Vietnam War as well as the 304,000 wounded veterans. Additionally, we remember the 1.1 million Americans killed in all American wars and venerate the nearly 18.2 million veterans alive today. In their honor we have created Veterans Day, a day we set aside to observe the sacrifices veterans have made yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Though this is considered a national holiday, not all feel the need to pay respects to our veterans. For some, it’s a form of protesting the actions of the government, as was the case with the Vietnam war. Others paint troops as killing machines with no regard for human life. Once again, refer to the Vietnam example.
I don’t think those who disrespect our veterans are looking at the whole picture. To shed some light, here are a few statistics about American vets:
-According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 11 percent of the adult homeless population are veterans. However, about 1.4 million vets are at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks and substandard housing.
-The median income for veterans was $30,096, well below the U.S. Census Bureau’s median American income of $59,039.
-About 3.8 million veterans suffer from a service-related disability, which includes both physical and mental injuries.
Though these are dismal facts, there are more that speak to our veterans’ contributions:
-14.7 million veterans voted in the 2012 presidential election. 70 percent cast a ballot in the election compared to the 60.9 percent of non-veterans who voted according to the 2015 Veteran’s Day press release from the U.S. Census Bureau.
-According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, higher numbers of veterans attain some college education and associates degrees than non-veterans, with 22.8 percent attending some college compared to 18.6 percent of non-vets and 12.5 percent earning an associates contrasted with 9.4 percent of non-vets.
-Veterans contribute $1.2 trillion in sales receipts and make up $5.79 million of America’s employees according to Entrepreneur.com
These numbers don’t lie, and the story they tell about veterans is a compelling one. Not only have they put their lives in jeopardy and pay hefty prices for it, but they also make up an informed, educated and successful American demographic.
Though you have the right to not observe Veterans Day, I encourage you to seriously think about your reasoning. Looking at the few facts here, veterans have earned respect tenfold, and to take one day to thank them seems reasonable. Remember November 11 and 12 to thank a veteran, but consider extending those thanks to every day of the year, not just on the national holiday.