Opinion: We need to do more to help our veterans
Supporting veteran-focused organizations should be a priority
Editor’s note: Marshall Child wrote this opinion piece as part of a public relations project for a class, in which he represented Veterans on the Rise and promoted their mission.
My eyes stung from beads of sweat, which never failed to find a way to stream down my face. The heat radiated out from the Afghan sun and shone down on me in the deserts of Kandahar. I was halfway through a nine-month deployment with the U.S. Army to the southern region of the country. The days were long and the nights were hot as we worked every single day, without a day off. When we weren’t on a mission or writing reports, we had to find a way to decompress and relax before getting up the next day to do it all over again. This is the wash, rinse, repeat cycle of military life in a deployed environment.
When people think about the sacrifice that service members make, they always talk about the ‘Hollywood’ sacrifice or giving one’s life to save others. In reality, the sacrifice is so much more. With deployments, field training exercises, out-of-state training and long, inconsistent hours, military members miss out on many life experiences and give up many of the ‘smaller’ things most people take for granted. For example, I missed my only sister’s wedding and my grandfather’s funeral because of deployment and mandatory pre-deployment training. I will never get to be there for those once-in-a-lifetime moments. I had to come to terms with this by hoping I was doing the right thing and by acknowledging that these were sacrifices that had to be made.
However, the things I gave up pale in comparison to those of fellow soldiers. I’ve seen people miss the birth of their child and marriages shatter from years of a strained relationship due to long work hours and the unpredictable nature of military life. My fellow service members give up a lot more than people realize in order to serve the country, or to merely put food on the table.
Less than 0.5 percent of the country are active members of the military, shouldering the burden for the rest. What this means to me is that those who served deserve help when they get out of the service. Military members can lose everything while in the service, and knowing this, they still join. The rest of our nation should help shoulder some weight once these individuals leave the service and become veterans. We can’t continue to walk by homeless veterans and do nothing. On any given day, there are over 40,000 homeless veterans in the United States. These are men and women who sacrificed to serve and are left flailing in the wind once they are discharged. If a small percentage of the country can defend the vast majority, then the vast majority can work towards helping and treating the small percentage.
This is exactly what Veterans on the Rise hopes to achieve. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, they hope to get homeless veterans off the streets and into temporary housing in the greater D.C. area. They work hard to give these veterans adequate resources and supplies to try to help them turn their lives around. The holistic care VOTR provides includes medical support through the VA Medical Center, therapeutic and rehabilitative services, individual professional counseling, training in life skills and financial management, assistance in finding job training, employment opportunities, and help in finding alternative safe and affordable housing when veterans are discharged from VOTR. VOTR is doing great things in D.C. and will continue to look out for veterans even when others are not.
As we work together as a nation to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, it is of utmost importance that we come together as a community to help each other. Homeless veterans can’t become the forgotten ones. One such step in helping others who are struggling is to consider donating to the VOTR GoFundMe, whose mission is to renovate their kitchen to better feed those enrolled in the programs.
Marshall Child is a senior in the School of Communication. He is an outside contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are theirs and their clients’ and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff.