Veterans Day was early last month, and unfortunately, that is the only day many Americans and the federal government pay much attention to the men and women who have served in our military.
That’s the big picture, and it can be disturbing, which we will get back to in a moment. But first, a snapshot of how the village and its citizens can help.
Rosie Rojo is part of the Santa Maria “village.” When Rosie heard about a wheelchair-bound Korean War veteran losing his homeowner’s insurance and facing displacement from his home, she went to work.
A little more than a year ago Rosie donated her time contacting local nonprofit organizations, and along with volunteers cleaned up the fellow’s property. She reached out to the Community Action Partnership, which outfitted the veteran’s home with wheelchair-accessible gear. After a lot of hard work and fixing up, the war veteran’s home was back in good shape, and he was saved.
Housing is just one of the many problems our military men and women face. Operation WEBS — which stands for Women Empowered Build Strong — held a fund-raiser this week at the Santa Maria Veterans Hall. The money will be used to buy special kits to build small houses for local veterans.
Those are what you would call the village helping those in need, and it can, and does work miracles at the local level. Without such Samaritans and volunteers, many of our neighbors who served in the military would be in bad shape.
And sadly, too many veterans across this great nation are, indeed, in bad shape, which brings us back to the bigger picture — the federal government’s apparent lack of interest in giving military veterans the help they need, and which they earned, often at great personal expense.
The snapshot of veterans in America is distressing. As of the end of 2016, there were nearly 21 million military veterans in the United States, which represents about 10 percent of the total adult population.
California has the nation’s largest overall population, so it follows that we also have the nation’s largest population of veterans, 1.8 million-plus at last count.
We went online to research how the total veteran population is faring, and the results are not encouraging. One of the most distressing facts is that studies from earlier this decade show that an average of 22 veterans take their own lives each day, or just under one suicide per hour of every day. Suicide experts reckon that number undercounts the reality of the situation.
Suicide seems to be the way many veterans see as their only escape from the hell their lives have become, in large part due to post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and homelessness.
Political posturing from the White House and members of Congress do nothing to address the real problems facing veterans, and just about everyone is aware of that. Mindless prattling and partisanship won’t solve veterans’ problems. Nor will depriving veterans of the support implied when a man or woman enlists in one of our military branches.
We have a lot of veterans living here on the Central Coast, which is one reason why we write so often about the plight of our service men and women. But it’s going to take pressure from us villagers to get our federal elected representatives to do something about the government’s negligent attitude about the nation’s veterans.
Villagers can certainly help by stepping up, as Rosie Rojo has done, and help our neighbors who are in need. But veterans need more from Big Brother.