Veterans Column: Here’s What You Can Do for National Purple Heart Day
By Alexander G. Deraney, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) and GCVF “Mobile Veteran Outreach” Team Member
Aug. 7 is National Purple Heart Day, a day on which many Americans reflect on those who fought and lost their lives or received life-altering injuries in combat operations.
An estimated 1.8 million Americans have earned that venerable award, however this year’s commemoration of those who earned the Purple Heart may be eclipsed by numerous significant current events. For example, the global pandemic’s variants are creating renewed havoc in much of the country, with vaccines fully available and yet a symbol of the political tribalization that is prevalent in our society today.
As we deal, yet again, with rising infections, we still haven’t begun to gain a full understanding of the massive economic implications of the virus. All this is happening amid the backdrop of social unrest and hardening ideological polarization. In this era in America, many question the very validity of long-held American values, including our support for those who have served in uniform.
This August marks another milestone in the history of our military and perhaps also a shift in how we value service.
After almost 20 years, the nation’s longest conflict in the Global War on Terror, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, will come to an end this month. It marks the end of conventional “boots on the ground” operations.
Later this year, America will also end combat operations in Iraq. Almost 10 years ago Operation Iraqi Freedom ended, but the United States became recommitted after the emergence and growth of the Islamic State.
Together, military operations in both theaters required the deployment of an estimated 2.7 million service men and women and resulted in the awarding of approximately 57,710 Purple Hearts.
Many ask if we won these conflicts and were they worth it? When we consider that the strategic objective of these operations was the prevention of the harboring of terrorists to prevent another large-scale attack on American soil, the report card is pretty good. The question is will we continue our support of veterans with an end to major combat operations?
Given the challenges facing Americans today, the needs of vulnerable veterans and their families can easily go unnoticed. When our veterans leave the service, many continue to bear the physical and emotional scars of that service.
These scars often mask invisible wounds, including traumatic brain injury, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to Veterans Affairs, veteran suicides number between 17 and 18 per day, with some 37,250 veterans who are homeless and another 1.4 million veterans at risk of homelessness. Fortunately, there are a few organizations that exist to serve vulnerable veterans.
One in our community, the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation, is committed to a comprehensive system of care to disrupt and defeat the chain of events that leads to negative health and life outcomes for veterans.
This Purple Heart Day can be recognized in a number of ways. We can fly the American flag Aug. 7, visit a veteran’s memorial or take a moment to reflect on our veterans’ sacrifices with friends and family.
We can participate more meaningfully with a donation to a veterans organization or registering our talents as a volunteer with one of these organizations. Volunteers often form the backbone of veterans care organizations.
Last month, Camarillo Police reached out to the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation for assistance in housing a 94-year-old, legally blind widow of a veteran. Thanks to five dedicated and talented foundation volunteers, its partner agencies and the Camarillo Police Department, the widow will be living in a stable, long-term facility, fully cared for.
If our lives do not allow for volunteerism, it is always appropriate to thank a veteran for his or her service. But this month, especially, let’s remember the physical sacrifices of combat that Purple Heart Day commemorates.
Source: VC Star article from August 2, 2021