Young veterans: ‘Don’t just thank us, join us’

BY News Desk  November 11, 2013 at 1:30 PM EDT

“Our time of service to our newest veterans has only just begun,” said President Obama at Veterans Day ceremonies in Arlington National Cemetery on Monday. The president said Americans must fulfill our obligation to honor and support our veterans “not just for generations past but for this generation of veterans and all who will follow.”

The president’s emphasis on caring for the “newest veterans” underscores the struggles facing soldiers returning home from the country’s most recent wars. Politco’s Juana Summers detailed the efforts of young veterans to garner some of the focus of Veterans Day writing: “Bottom line: The troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan want Veterans Day to also be about them from now on.” Younger veterans are asking that Veterans Day also be a time to advocate for policies that address their needs, which include employment opportunities, mental health treatment and access to disability compensation. The nonprofit organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has organized over 150 events across the country that call for action — not just appreciation — on Veterans Day. “This year, our theme is Unite America with our Veterans,” IAVA posted on its website. “We are asking for more than just a yellow ribbon, a handshake and a cursory thank you.”

IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff said in a statement, “This is a unique time to unite our veterans – and all Americans. We have an important message to share. Today, don’t just thank us, join us.”

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden reflected this sentiment in an op-ed published in a number of military news websites Monday, emphasizing that there is still work to be done to support our veterans. They wrote, “We’re not going to stop until every veteran and military spouse who wants a job has one; until we reach every family affected by the unseen wounds of war; until every student veteran and military child gets the education they need.”

H/T Bridget Bowman