We awake each day to a seemingly endless cycle of lives lost, children dying on all sides of every conflict, and a gnawing sense of futility as world peace feels further out of grasp than it has in many, many years. This Veterans Day we cannot fail to recognize that the security and freedoms we depend upon here in America are a direct result of the selfless, heroic, and undervalued service of our nation’s men and women in uniform.
For many of us, supporting our Veterans is personal. My Dad is a vet. My cousin Ben, active duty military. We all know someone who has served or someone who has sacrificed for a loved one who served. I often think about my cousin’s mother during the tours he served overseas. I don’t know how well she could have slept during those years and sometimes wonder if I’ll have the strength to support my own sons if they choose to put their own lives at risk to protect the freedoms we all too often take for granted.
Part of what fuels my concerns for our Veterans is not the act of soldiering itself but the quality of their lives once they’ve come home. Many of the statistics are staggering. In the past decade, more of our vets have been lost to suicide than to combat. The twin national crises of opioid use and poor mental health hit our vets harder. They just do. Mental health issues including PTSD and other post-combat syndromes contribute to the most shameful statistic of all: Nearly 40,000 American Veterans are homeless on any given night.
When my boys were very young, I would gently remind them to thank our men and women in uniform, particularly when we were at an airport. I would wonder whether those uniformed strangers were finally returning home to a husband, wife, or child or whether they were headed off to a foreign land, their own mothers unable to sleep or even breathe until they were safely back on American soil. To all those who have served, we honor you. Today, and every day.
Alison Harmelin is the mother of three and co-founder of Zeel, along with her husband Samer Hamadeh. Before becoming an “accidental entrepreneur,” Harmelin spent fifteen years in broadcast news as an anchor and reporter, covering such events as the September 11th attacks, the London bombings, and Hurricane Katrina.