by Gary Kennedy
This is the era of the realization of the value of the commitment of our men and women in uniform and those who have retired their uniforms. There has been no more advantageous time in our history to seek benefit befitting the sacrifices that our defenders have given. “Thank you for your service” is heard by so many veterans today but only recently has this been equated to an actual, tangible benefit in the lives of those who have been willing to sacrifice all so that we remain Americans and enjoy the freedom that so many countries around the world don’t enjoy.
An example that I am familiar with is our “Blue Water Navy,” which were navy ships anchored or patrolling off the shores of Vietnam while defoliates (Agent Orange) were being sprayed over the country side to kill the vegetation so the enemy would be exposed. For approximately 40 years the government denied any relationship between these chemicals and the diseases that our military succumbed to. Our government took the stand that the chemical only involved the soldier that had “boots on the ground.” Now because of great advocacy by our veteran advocates and political leaders such as Senator Olympia Snowe and current Senator Susan Collins most of these issues are being treated as service connected and compensated.
All states have great advocacy groups such as Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Bureau of Veterans Affairs. Also there are some independent advocates that work behind the scenes. Here in Maine our advocates are located, for the most part, at the Veteran’s Administration, Togus, Maine. Their phone number is 207-623-8411 if you would like to contact someone.
I would be remiss in my reporting if I didn’t mention the #1 affliction to especially combat veterans, although there are other military personnel that have this problem for other reasons, P.T.S.D.. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). For many years this was the most difficult problem for which to receive help. However, recently there has been a push to take a closer look. This new attitude has resulted in many previous denials to now be acknowledged as accepted and those thousands of veterans who once were lost are now found and are receiving the help they need. So, if you are one that was denied in past years it might be advantageous to visit your VA center once again.
There are so many things that have changed in the VA system that benefits our veterans. It is well worth the time to visit the VA and speak with a veteran’s advocate or service officer. They have a wealth of knowledge and can steer you in the right direction. I have written/developed cases for more than 35 years and can assure you that things are very user friendly these days.
This is the time of year that we salute our men and women in uniform and pay our respects to those who have given their all. It’s a time to think about all the dreams and aspirations that have been ripped away, never to be realized. Just think about it for a moment. Perhaps one of your friends, family or ancestors made the supreme sacrifice. What would they have achieved had they lived? We’ll never know but we have so much opportunity because of their sacrifice.
I have traveled this world and have seen so many people who have looked at me with longing. It’s not because I am great to look at, it’s that I am an American and they can see the freedom in my face, what I am allowed to do and where I am allowed to go. Most observers in the third world can only dream of having that kind of freedom. I have learned that my being an American is precious and worth any price that I have ever had to pay. It’s a fact that some take freedom for granted every day; that is just the way it is. However, when you pass a veterans cemetery, you will start to realize that your freedom isn’t really free at all. Someone paid a very big price for that. Take care and God Bless America.
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