Commentary: The importance of reaching out to our veterans

Isiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Monday is Veterans Day. To most, it’s a day off. Nothing wrong with that.

But for the less than 1 percent who serve in uniform, this day takes on additional meaning. Military service and sacrifice runs in families. Regardless of chronological age, veterans have shared understandings and values that transcend generations.

We Vietnam vets followed our parents’ service in WWII and Korea. Many of the current generation who have served so well in the Middle East are our sons and daughters who are now taking pride in their own children’s service.

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Dave Skocik

Our state’s two military affiliated high schools in Wilmington and Clayton (with another that may be added in Sussex) are evidence of youth willing to assume the burden and risk of military service.

But the demands of military service anywhere are a life-changing experience for service members and their families. Despite the VA’s focus on reaching out to veterans in crisis, the horrendous suicide rate remains about 50 percent higher than the general public. Veterans having thoughts of harming themselves may call Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, then press 1 for a VA staff member. Veterans, active-duty military and their families can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net.

It’s why the VA hires so many veterans to engage with their peers regardless of era served. The same is true for specialized Veterans Courts, like the one here in Delaware, that reach out to those who have served to work with fellow veterans in trouble, regardless of when and where they served.

I struggled through my eulogy for my late son-in-law in 2016 because I understood what he endured during his 20 years of Army service, including tours in Afghanistan and Somalia. The emotional touch point was not his suffering; it was that like most veterans who have been through hell, he never complained about it.

As a media liaison and later as part of the armed security force at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., in 2003, I worked with men who had been shot, burned, blinded, lost limbs, and were even crushed in accidents. They expressed only one regret — they had left their Marines behind.

These survivors are the ones we need to connect with after they leave their military support system. They are part of a proud and noble history of sacrifice and service that have kept us safe in our homes since 1776.

Let’s celebrate this pre-Thanksgiving holiday, but let’s also reach out to those who serve and have served, not only on Veterans Day but throughout the year.

It’s in our interest to recognize and support them and their families because we need them more than ever to protect us in this ever-changing and volatile world.

Join us on Monday at 2 p.m. at the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park on South Little Creek Road in Dover when we honor generations of veterans and their families.

Dave Skocik, of Dover, is president of the Delaware Veterans Coalition.

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