The Courage to Serve

By Rep. Paul Evans of Monmouth, Oregon. Maj. Paul Evans (Ret.) served in the Air Force and Oregon Air National Guard for twenty years, performing tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, and domestically. He is currently the state representative for House District 20 and is a speech communication professor at Chemeketa Community College.

Four score and sixteen years ago President Woodrow Wilson began the tradition of setting aside the eleventh day of November as a holiday dedicated to honoring the sacrifice and service of America’s veterans.

Since 1919 Veterans Day has evolved into a national celebration of service past, present, and future. From cities large and small, from states and territories – men and women have answered the call during times of peace and war, and they have fought whenever and wherever asked. Our nation honors their sacrifices with parades, and ribbons, and passionate speeches. Our veterans deserve the thanks of a grateful nation; in truth, they deserve much more.

On this Veterans Day our nation is struggling to afford the burdens of global engagement. We have learned that isolationism too often promotes the forces of despotism and tyranny; we also know that we cannot long sustain the operational tempo of these past fourteen years. It is time for a national conversation about a great many topics, but for today, we must begin with how we attend to the families bearing the burdens of war.

While the Great Recession is over, a Greater Paralysis remains. America has not kept faith with the troops we sent into Harm’s Way. We embarked upon a global campaign without a plan for victory, a means of sustaining our efforts, or a system to care for those we sent. These choices have left a lasting consequence. Every day over twenty veterans accept suicide as their fate. Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die by this means. Of these wounded warriors, at least one served in Afghanistan or Iraq – or both.

We have a significant number of homeless veterans: On any given night in America, nearly 58,000 veterans are homeless. Closer to home, in Oregon, at least 1,200 veterans are without permanent housing; it is likely the total is much higher. We witness an increasing number of incarcerated veterans, and we have a growing schism between the society that sent troops to war and the men and women grappling with its shadow. Too few people understand the real price of combat. Yellow ribbons and parades are no substitute for programs that help reintegrate our military families into the America their sacrifice and service made possible.

This Veterans Day consider the value of your life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. If you believe such goals are worthy of the sacrifices made, we need your help this coming Legislative Session. Demand our Legislature take meaningful steps to bridge the divide – to keep faith with the men and women who have demonstrated the courage to serve.

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