Honoring veterans: Repaying our debt with quality care, not mere words

Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 10:17 AM
Kurt Patton and his wife Colleen Patton, with Combat Veterans Association, holds a sign up as more the 150 Veterans and supporters rallied in a parking lot at Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Colo., Sunday, May 31, 2015, to demand completion of a vastly over-budget and long-delayed VA medical center in Aurora. The hospital project faces a shutdown unless Congress approves money soon. (John Leyba/The Denver Post via AP)

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

—Abraham Lincoln, 1865

From its tea-soaked, star-spangled beginnings, the United States has always been the home of patriots willing to stand up for their country and for what was right. This nation still depends upon men and women who are willing to serve.

For well over a century, Southwest Coloradans have stepped up to that role. In exchange for their service, they gained an education and experiences that would have been out of reach in rural Colorado. Many of them brought military skills – not only job skills but interpersonal and leadership skills – back to benefit local communities.

They deserve to be honored, but the honors heaped upon our veterans must be more than mere words. The nation and its people must act with honor toward them, and in some instances, that means trying to repay an inestimable debt.

All who came home have been changed in some way, and many carry with them needs that cannot be met by parades and poppies alone. Those who have been wounded in body or in mind need high-quality care. That was the deal they made when they signed up, and that’s what they are owed.

In his second inaugural address just before the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln urged the deeply divided population to bind up the wounds of the nation and the warriors.

More than 150 years later, the United States of America still has the responsibility to care for those who have served and the families of those who have died in service to their country.

It is our turn to stand up for their rights, in ways that go far beyond simply standing as Veterans Day parades pass by.