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We owe vets more than ‘Thank you’

Americans have come a long way in their attitude toward military veterans from the Vietnam era, when returning servicemen were frequently cursed, spit on and called “baby killers.” Today, we hear “Thank you for your service” from people meeting veterans and soldiers in active duty. Considering the great sacrifices made and hardships endured by those in military service, a good “Thank you” is the least we can do.

But that should not be the end of it. We can and should do more for our veterans. On a government level, we should make sure we are providing the health care, mental health care and financial benefits our veterans need and deserve, without having to cut through the thickets of red tape they so often encounter.

On a personal level, we can engage with out veterans beyond a “Thank you.” A poll commissioned by the non-profit Cohen Veterans Network shows about half of responding veterans felt uneasy with the phrase, “Thank you for your service.” Many didn’t really know how to respond. They suggest also asking the veteran when and where they served and what they did, to start a conversation and learn a little more about them.

And we return the favor, provide service for the service they have given us. We don’t necessarily have to run down to the recruiting office and sign up, though that’s not a bad idea for those fit and able to serve. But we can do other things to make this society that they served to protect a good and decent society. We can work to provide for the hungry and homeless. We can exercise the rights they fought for us to have, and respect those rights as practiced by others. We can try to listen to each other and look for the places where we agree in our political discourse rather than vilifying and demonizing opponents.

On this Veterans Day, go ahead and thank those veterans you meet for their service, but also think about what service means and how we can all provide it.

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