Three years ago, my older brother received an acceptance letter from the United States
government giving him a four-year college scholarship together with an eight-year-long
commitment to serving his country as a United States Naval Officer. While neither of my parents
served in the military, I spent much of my childhood hearing stories about my grandfather’s time
in the military. Now, with my brother in the Marines ROTC program, I better understand the importance of educating people about the
military and the bravery of those who serve in it.
In World War II, around 407,000 U.S. soldiers died fighting for America and fighting for freedom. In the Vietnam War, 58,220 members of the U.S. military died, and in the Korean War,
there were 54,246 fatalities. Since 9/11, there have been over 7,000 soldiers who have died in the line of duty, and countless others wounded. These men and women sacrifice their lives in order to ensure that we sleep safely here at Andover.
Despite this, veterans often do not get the recognition, or appreciation, that they deserve.
When veterans returned home from the Vietnam War, they were met with ridicule and hatred. While the exact numbers are unknown, according to ABC News, the social ostracization that came from being a Vietnam veteran led to high suicide rates. However, in 2019, we are able to obtain better statistics. According to the Center for Public Integrity, the rate of suicide in the veteran community is still far too high, nearly double the suicide rate of civilians.
Today, veterans and active service members are frequently not treated with the respect and support they deserve. One example of this is the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, a cabinet level department, created to help veterans after they return home. According to CNN, there have been thousands of deaths due to the ridiculous month-long wait times and low standards of medical care.
In addition to significant governmental problems, there are issues with the way society
treats veterans. One need not look further than the people who go to veterans’ funerals in order to protest, disrupt and disrespect the fallen soldier. In addition, veterans are more likely than civilians to be homeless. According to NPR and U.S.A. Today, there have been studies done confirming that veterans often are discriminated against in the employment and housing system. These societal issues can also be seen in smaller ways. My brother has many friends in ROTC whom I have gotten to know, and hearing stories about the way they are treated when in uniform angers me. I believe that it is extremely important to educate students on what service members do so that those Americans who deserve the most respect get it.
Education is the first step to change. Educating students at Andover on the importance of our military, what soldiers do and how they protect us by fighting domestic and foreign terrorism, and how we can better support veterans is very important. As Americans, it is our duty to support and honor those who have fought for us, and those who have given up everything in order to defend our nation.
There is much more we can do as a community to fulfill this duty. Why not spend a part of Veterans Day celebrating veterans? Sure, cupcakes at Paresky Commons are awesome and having a Veterans Day dinner is a great way to acknowledge service members, but I believe that as a community, we can, and should, do more. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we spend hours in special programming learning about and honoring the incredible accomplishments of an amazing man. I wish that we were able to have a similar opportunity to learn about our nations’ veterans. Maybe next year we can spend a portion of the day creating care packages for military members overseas, or hear about the experiences of a veteran, or even have a discussion about Veterans Day as a community.
Speaking with veterans about their experiences on Veteran’s Day in Boston, I learned about marching, parades and other activities honoring the military, a huge difference from how we celebrate now. Hopefully next year, we can dedicate this one day out of the year to celebrate the people who are fighting for us, and to honor the military men and women who sacrificed their lives so that we can enjoy our freedoms.