11/12/2020, 6 p.m.
We take this moment to salute our nation’s veterans, the men and women who committed themselves to our nation’s defense — and to our liberty — through service in the Armed Forces.
According to the most recent Census Bureau figures, there are 17.4 million veterans in the United States. Add to that the impact of their years of military service on their families, including their spouses, children, parents and other loved ones, through deployments to such hot spots as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, South Korea, Japan and, years ago, Vietnam, as well as their assignments and reassignments to bases around the country and the globe, and it is clear that their service, their sacrifice has affected millions of others.
Black people and people of color have been a key part of the effort to protect this nation, even before there was an official United States of America. Black people fought in the Revolutionary War to give independence to others while we, ourselves, were not free. Black people also fought and died in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War and Vietnam to preserve the liberties and freedoms enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution that we, ourselves, were denied the right to enjoy.
Their dedication to a cause greater than themselves — that has paved and protected the path for us today — should be recognized and held in high esteem.
Today, if we want to honor our veterans for their valor, duty and commitment to our nation, we must ensure that they not only receive the respect they deserve for putting their lives on the line, but that they receive the necessary health care, mental health services, job training and housing assistance to keep them and their families healthy and whole after they transition from active duty to civilian status.
Statistics offer a dreary picture of what’s happening today. Veterans are overrepresented in populations struggling with homelessness, suicide, post-traumatic stress and addiction. About 45 percent of all homeless veterans are African-American or Latino, despite accounting for 10.4 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively, of the U.S. veteran population, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
More than a million more veterans are considered at risk for becoming homeless because of poverty and a lack of support.
In the Nov. 3 election, Virginia voters overwhelmingly supported a state constitutional amendment that would exempt from state and local taxes a vehicle owned and used primarily by or for a military veteran who is permanently and totally disabled from a service-connected injury.
While the change will grant a small amount of relief to some of our veterans, our support must go much wider and deeper. We must push for legislative and policy initiatives in the areas of homelessness, addiction treatment, mental health services and affordable housing that will have a greater impact in helping veterans. By pushing for the resources veterans need, we help to lift our community in a way that benefits all of us — just like their service benefited all of us.
Thanking veterans for their service is the least we can do, but taking action to help them and their families is far better.