Native Writes: The value of a veteran

Just what is “Stolen valor?” 

I recently encountered it as I watched a man claim to have served in war, but reality said he didn’t. He accepted a medal and wore it. No needed to check his record.

It’s claiming the glory, but not the sacrifice of military service in order to gain something such as a job, a welfare benefit or just attention in our hyped-up world.

There is no question that our military men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of freedom are heroes, but what about those who are living among us?

The approach of Veterans Day brings with it awareness.

With all-volunteer armed forces, the aura is different than it was when I was younger. I had two half-brothers in the Navy and friends had older siblings in the Army, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

They enlisted.

Back when I was a child, it was not a matter of choice for many who were “drafted” to serve.

Some served their basic commitment, while others “re-upped” to make service a career. Many came home to enter the workforce, while others were unable to ”come home again,” since their minds were forever wounded.

All those who served in any capacity are veterans forever. It upsets me to see or hear the term, “former veterans.”

Daily, we are reminded that the nation suffered great losses in all its wars. And there are some who would return the nation to combat.

When I was about six, I met an old man who wasn’t exactly “right in the head.” In warning me about him, my dad said he was “shell shocked.” He had also lost both legs and had crafted a sort of skateboard from a chair seat and roller skates. He sat on the corner with a tin cup in front of him.

Combat left him disabled, yet he, too, was a hero. He was reluctant to tell his own story.

On the same busy street was a man who never served, but claimed to have performed heroic deeds. Someone checked his record and he was prosecuted.

The legless man served and was simply seeking some kind of help. He eventually died and no one said how. Years later, I learned he had self-medicated. “I am a morphiner,” he answered when asked why he panhandled. 

He told my dad he had been hospitalized and guaranteed a life supply of painkillers.

Concern about opioid use is common today and treatment could have been available then.

As time passes, the U.S. government announces new findings about old issues. PTSD is recognized, along with illnesses directly connected with such chemicals as Agent Orange and Napalm. Chemical damage has also been found in younger veterans exposed to war in far-away lands.

Veteran suicide is on the rise as the Veterans Administration can’t meet the needs of those who have gone to war and have returned damaged.

A person in an office at the Pentagon throws money at them.

If they ask.