Memorial Day means a lot of good things in American parlance- summer, beach days, American flags everywhere you look, swim parties, picnics, potato salad and pretty little desserts. It also means remembering the veterans, thanking the servicemen, and almost a maudlin ode to war and bravery.
As a pacifist, I am not a big fan of celebrating war and warmongers, even though I think being a solider is an honorable life. To lay your life for liberty of others is indeed brave or foolish, depending on your perspective. My year in San Diego, especially immersed in the world of social innovation has brought me in close awareness of the plight of our veterans. San Diego county has around 2000 homeless veterans. They are on every street corner, panhandling occasionally, mostly huddled up like a bundle of clothes that can make one cry. I feel ashamed to share this, but most times I hesitate to park my shiny car near them. I am afraid if I were them, I would definitely key it.
- 18 veterans commit die by suicide everyday. That is twice the rate of general of population in the US.
- 32 more attempt suicide everyday but fail to die.
- 20% of suicides in the US are by veterans.
- 33% of homeless Americans are veterans. On any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are in a shelter or on the streets.
- 76% of homeless veterans suffer from mental health and substance abuse problems.
Stop sentimentalizing and glorifying military service. Do not just thank people who served in the military. Do something concrete. What can you do to help?
- Vote against war. Not only people die in combat, in recent times, suicide among active military has surpassed combat deaths.
- Vote for mental health support for veterans and military personnel. Learn more about where your elected representatives in terms of care for veterans.
- Volunteer for the Veterans.
- Support the Farmer-Veteran Coalition. Immersion in agriculture is proven to reduce recidivism rates in prisons. Likely to do the same with veterans’ mental health and wellbeing.
- Help veterans get back to work.
- Help veterans become entrepreneurs.
Do not thank the servicemen and women. Easy to say today and forget tomorrow. Instead, do something concrete this year.