Troops continue to deploy in defense of our freedom
While Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, America still has many thousands of its sons and daughters deployed directly in harm's way for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and thousands more stationed overseas as part of Operation New Dawn (post OIF).
Nearly 2,000 Pennsylvania Guardians recently left our state to train-up before deploying to the Middle East. They are all part of the newest generation of veterans, exposed to danger and life away from home, as they put their lives on the line to defend freedom.
Americans may differ on political issues and have different backgrounds, but we all share one thing: we know that freedom comes at a cost and those who have paid that cost have given us a tremendous gift. Through their service, these brave men and women join nearly one million other Pennsylvania veterans who have sacrificed much for our freedom. They deserve our support, our gratitude and our prayers.
As the first female and first Desert Storm veteran to be elected state commander of the 97,000-member Pennsylvania Veterans of Foreign Wars, I hope Pennsylvania citizens will join VFW members in showing our support for these patriots through care packages, letters and assistance for their families.
All Americans should feel privileged to live in our country. We should show our appreciation to our veterans. When you see someone wearing their uniform, a ball cap or shirt identifying them as a World War II or Korean War veteran, please give them a pat on the back, a handshake and a hug.
When you see a Vietnam War veteran proudly wearing clothing showing their unit or where they served in Southeast Asia, please follow the VFW's lead in supporting them, too. Offering the simple words "welcome home" and "thank you" will mean so much. If you know a veteran of the Cold War era, of military action in Grenada or Panama, or of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, tell them you appreciate both your freedom and their service. They all played an important role in our nation's freedom story.
When you see younger veterans from service in the War on Terror, thank them for defending our home soil by going after enemies of freedom where they live and train. Many of them joined the military in response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Tell them that you are proud of their service. Let's also be thankful for the service of thousands of Pennsylvania veterans who served in military operations that were never made public but which still defended America's interests.
We should thank those who served in U.N. peacekeeping areas like Egypt, Bosnia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Kosovo and modern-day Korea. They provided a foundation for freedom to gain a foothold and to succeed. We also hope that citizens will join the VFW in saluting and supporting those who stood ready to deploy, and those who do so today, because their service supplies America with the military might necessary to keep peace through strength.
Please take a few minutes to write your state and federal lawmakers urging them to provide veterans with all the services and benefits they need to live the full, enjoyable lives that they deserve. Many veterans struggle both with physical and traumatic stress issues that require considerable resources to manage. Our nation must be committed to caring for our heroes when they are warriors in uniform and when they return to civilian life.
The VFW encourages any veteran who has not sought VA benefits, or who wants to file for a rating review due to a change in a service-connected condition, to contact one of our VFW state service officers who are accredited to work with the VA health care system . Last year, our service officers connected Pennsylvania veterans with more than $34 million in federal benefits. Visit our web site at www.vfwpahq.org and open the "VA Claims Help" section to contact your nearest service officer.
The Pennsylvania VFW hopes that everyone will take time during Veterans Day weekend, and thereafter, to thank our veterans - regardless of when and where they served - as if your freedom has depended on their service, because this is truly the case.
(Ruth A. Fairchild is a
Desert Storm veteran and Pennsylvania VFW state commander.)