I’ve always appreciated the courage and sacrifice of our veterans, but every year when Veteran’s Day comes around, I’ll be honest: I only really cared about getting the day off. My birthday is close to Veteran’s Day, and I never actually thought about what this day means.
But this year, for the first time, I actually served our brave vets through the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division’s Project Salute program where I assisted vets with veteran’s benefits questions and other legal issues. Here are 3 reasons I will never take Veteran’s Day off again:
Reason 1: The Expert Who Can’t Work in His Field
I met a 60 year old vet who did a tour in Saigon (with no documentation — one of those, “you, you, and you, you’re coming with us” deals) and another tour in the Gulf War almost 20 years later. Bruised, battered, and proud — so proud he’s silently accepted his 0% benefit award 10 years ago. After losing his home, he is now fighting to get his award increased because he needs to.
He can’t find work even though he has Master’s in Human Resources. The problem is, he has been in chronic pain since serving as a Military Working Dog trainer, where he sustained thousands of dog bites in his long career. Side effects from strong narcotic pills hurt his career and caused personal struggles, so he now uses medical marijuana as a much safer way to manage his pain. But he can’t pass the drug test required for most HR positions.
Reason 2: The Silent Sufferer
I also met a brave woman who was medically discharged, but is fighting for her disability benefits. She was working for the local VA office, and like a lot of other vets, her strong sense of pride and steadfast work ethic meant that she proudly put her head down and got her job done the job done without complaints — even when it meant stomaching sexually inappropriate conduct from one of her supervisors. She left her job and is now dealing with the dual struggle of obtaining her full medical benefits and resolving the issues that lead to her leaving a job she loved.
Reason 3: The Repeat Sacrificer
Another veteran was medically discharged after 15 years of service and received only 10% of his Veteran’s disability benefits. After 5 years of almost never leaving home and gaining over 70 pounds, he decided to dedicating his life to making sure his fellow vets don’t have to go through the struggles he has had to overcome. He is now a Veteran’s advocate, helping his comrades navigate these complex systems.
3 people. 3 powerful reasons why I’m never taking Veteran’s Day off again. Veteran’s put their lives on the line for us. The least I can do is dedicate a day of service to them.