Support American victims of war

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On Nov. 11, citizens of the United States of America will celebrate Veterans Day by honoring those who have served in the military. The holiday follows closely behind President Obama’s announcement at the end of October that the U.S. will withdraw nearly all troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, finally ending the eight-year war.

However, while the troops will be able to return home, the essence of war does not end there for them. Veterans are a relatively misunderstood population because those of us who have not had to face war can’t understand how it truly feels.

Adjusting to military life can be difficult, as can the transition from deployment back to civilian life. For this reason, many services have been established across the nation to help assist veterans with their lives and needs following their military service.

Organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Veterans Administration work to assist veterans, but those in Nevada have had difficulty finding the support they need, according to Bruce Hollinger, state commander of the VFW’s Nevada department.

“The economy has taken a toll on the state and local support for veterans,” he said. “Budgets are very tight, and it is easy to ignore the plight of the homeless—many of whom are veterans. It seems like a constant battle to keep the Nevada Office of Veterans Service funded to a level commensurate with the needs of Nevada veterans.”

Often a correlation exists between veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and homelessness, and both are problems that affect large numbers of American veterans. Homeless U.S. veterans can frequently be found living on city streets in Reno.

In September, a “stand down” was held locally in an effort to reach out to homeless veterans. The event aimed to provide services such as health screenings, counseling and referrals for substance abuse treatment, among others, to about 250 homeless veterans in the area.

Although I oppose war for a number of reasons, one of the primary reasons is that I don’t want people to die in war. Likewise, I don’t want people to suffer once they have returned from war. It is for this reason that I find it important for the nation to take care of its veterans. It is unbelievably unfair that so many people will be left to fend for themselves after being put through the trials of serving in the U.S. military.

While Nevada does offer many veterans’ services and does have many groups fighting for veterans’ rights, there is simply not enough state money to fund programs in all of the places they are needed, Hollinger said. Smaller cities isolated from Reno, Carson City or Las Vegas are rarely able to receive services for their resident veterans.

“I would like to see the state support more veterans’ affairs offices in the rural sections of Nevada, including more service offices to help with claims for benefits and medical assistance,” Hollinger said. “NOVS is trying to reach the rural areas with its mobile service, but that is now subject to being derailed by availability of funds.”

This Veterans Day, in lieu of those “if you love your freedom, thank a veteran” lectures, I will encourage Nevadans to instead think of ways to support veterans who have returned from war, to improve conditions for veterans, and to work on solving the problems of homelessness and untreated mental illness within the veteran population.