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  • Writer's pictureVincent Holloway

Gratitude Is Not Enough

We owe our Veterans everything, and sometimes we give them nothing. Our Nation must provide better compensation to those who protect our way of life.

As a Veteran, I appreciate and understand the sacrifices of our military men and women who have served in the defense of our Nation. My appreciation began as child growing up at Fort Knox. Like many of my family and friends, I am a proud "military brat." However, I did not begin to truly appreciate those sacrifices until I turned 16 years old. I started doing the math and determined that my Dad had been separated from us for half of my life--8 years. So what does that mean? It means that Mom bore the burden of running our household and raising two very active boys, which was not easy by any measure. My brother and I were very active in youth sports, and in our father's absence, our primary male role models were our coaches, most of them Soldiers themselves with their own families to worry about. Without our amazing Mom and our truly outstanding coaches, we could have easily turned down the wrong path like so many young men do, but we didn't.

I chose to follow in my Dad's footsteps into the Army...sort of. Instead of enlisting in the Army, I accepted a 4-year ROTC scholarship out of high school and attended the University of Kentucky. ROTC was an important part of my college life and helped me to mature as a young adult. Despite many challenges, I earned my commission, graduated from college, and began serving. However, I was determined that I would not let the Army separate me from my wife and children. So instead of accepting unaccompanied tours to Korea and short tour rotations to Egypt and the Middle East, I moved my family with me every 3-4 years over a 20 year period, which is common among military families. The point here is that military families make enormous sacrifices in support of their Soldier, Sailor, Marine, or Airman, and those sarifices should not go unrecognized.

As I approached retirement, I began thinking more about taking care of my health and addressing injuries that I may have overlooked in my earlier days. You the Army mindset, injuries and sickness are often viewed as a sign of weakness, and Soldiers in many cases are encouraged to "suck it up and drive on." This mentality, where Soldiers are more focused on the mission than themselves, results in many undocumented and untreated injuries that need to be addressed at separation or retirement. Separation or retirement physicals are a Soldier's last opportunity to document service-connected disabilities in their medical records. Unfortunately the knee injury created on your 4th jump in Airborne School 20 years ago--which went untreated and actually worsened in the intervening years as you ran 15 miles a week in the mandatory physical training program--does not always get documented. And because that injury is not documented, the Soldier is not always properly compensated for the resultant disability upon leaving the service. For this reason, a Veterans Service Organization's (DAV, VFW, or American Legion) Service Officer or a VA-accredited attorney is the best resource for our Servicemembers at separation or retirement. They understand the VA disability claim process and can help Servicemembers receive appropriate compensation for service-connected disabilities.

I tell this story for a few reasons. First, most U.S. military servicemembers care more about our country and their missions than they do about themselves. Many live with undocumented physical pain and discomfort while serving in uniform because to do otherwise may cause them to fail in their mission. We must acknowledge their sacrifices in protecting our freedoms. Second, most of our military members made those sacrifices of their own volition because they knew they were serving a higher purpose, much bigger than themselves. They love their families and they love our country, and would do anything to protect both. We must honor and recognize their contributions in protecting our way of life. Finally, you need to understand that most military members do not serve for the honor and recognition they might receive. In fact, most serve selflessly without regard for what they might receive in return. They have earned our respect, deserve the best medical care we can provide, and are entitled to compensation for their disabilities. Gratitude is not enough...we must take care of our Veterans.

Everyday is Veterans Day. Let's actively take care of those who have taken care of us.

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