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Veterans Day 2017: Honoring the People Who Served Their Country

We salute them with stories about, and advice for, U.S. veterans

In honor of Veterans Day, Next Avenue editors have gathered some of our top stories about veterans as well as stories of people who love and honor them. Ranging from memories of former soldiers to information about how to best support them later in life, this collection illuminates the many experiences of veterans in our country today.

Veterans Day
Credit: Civil Beat

Veterans Day Reflections

Why I Took Off My POW/MIA Bracelet After 44 Years (by Joan M. Burda): In 1972, when I was a student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, a small ad in the BG News offered the chance to buy a POW/MIA bracelet. The going price at the time: $4. I bought two. The bracelets arrived in a small package. I sent one to my sister, Janet, and put the other on my right wrist. Mine was engraved with a name: Capt. Charles Bifolchi (later promoted to Major). And the date he went missing in Vietnam: 1-8-68. Thus began a 44-year relationship with a man I never met. ... Read the whole story. 

How a Vietnam War Journalist and Vet Found Truth (by Kate McDonald): Reading about a father-daughter trip to Vietnam in Tim O’Brien’s iconic novel, The Things They Carried, inspired a similar trip for veteran Terry Wolkerstorfer and his then 10-year-old daughter Joan. It wasn’t until after returning from the successful trip that Wolkerstorfer met O’Brien and learned something surprising about his journey ... Read the whole story. 

Veteran’s Playlist: The Top 10 Vietnam War Songs (by Doug Bradley): In the book We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War, the writers  shows how music helped soldiers/veterans connect to each other and to life back home and to cope with the complexities of the war they had been sent to fight. A look at the 10 most mentioned songs by the Vietnam vets we interviewed. Realizing, of course, that every soldier had their own special song that helped bring them home. ... Read the whole story.

The Play's the Thing for These Kentucky Veterans (by Mark Rey): A group of veterans meets weekly to study and stage scenes from the plays of William Shakespeare and over the past two years, have grown and perfected their craft enough to perform their own Shakespeare Festival ... Read the whole story. 

What a Vietnam Vet Learned from World War II Vets (by Doug Bradley): The inner-city neighborhood where I grew up during the 1950s was crammed with World War II veterans. My dad, all my uncles, my best friend’s dad — it seemed that every kid on the block had a father who served in World War II. Stands to reason, since more than 16 million members of the United States Armed Forces served. (And it explains why there were so many of us post-war kids running around.) Oddly, I don’t remember many of the dads talking much about the war. On really hot summer nights, you’d maybe find a few of them clustered on the small stoops in front of the gritty row houses passing around a bottle of something and mentioning names like Luzon or Bataan or Normandy, but they’d never invite any of us kids into the conversation. ... Read the whole story.

A Final Salute to a Military-Veteran Father (by Wendy Schuman) A soldier is buried. Echoing across the cemetery is the plaintively haunting sound of "Taps," the final bugle call that signals the end of a serviceman's day. Someone from the same branch of the military as the deceased hands a crisply folded American flag to the next of kin, then salutes. Every person who has ever served in the U.S. armed forces or in the military of U.S. wartime allies and died during active duty or was honorably discharged is eligible for this final show of respect. One of my biggest regrets, something that still twists my insides a little whenever I think of it, is that we didn’t give my father a military funeral. "Taps" was not played, a flag was not tendered, a salute not given when Marvin Rosenblum was laid to rest at Cedar Park Cemetery in Paramus, N.J. ... Read the whole story.

A Tale of Two Vietnam War Correspondents (by Doug Bradley): From the way the news of writer Michael Herr’s recent death rippled through the veteran communities, you would have thought he was one of us. I heard the phrase “lost a great one” again and again. Of course, Herr wasn’t one of us. But the Vietnam war correspondent for Esquire magazine captured the truth about our experience in his classic book Dispatches. That refrain of “lost a great one” came alongside a chorus of “he got it right” and “damn straight the best book about that war, or any war.” ... Read the whole story.

War Poetry’s Power: Indelible Images (by Doug Bradley): Looking back on the World War I history lessons of my boyhood, I can’t recall many of the names, and I remember even fewer of the battles. But I remember vividly the horrors of trench warfare. I can see young men trying to kill each other with bayonets and rifles. Or their bloody hands. I watch rats scurry over their bodies. I smell poison gas. I witness all this because of the astonishing “Great War” poetry of Rupert Brooke and Julian Greenfell. ... Read the whole story.


Veterans Day Issues

Caregiver Support: What Parents of Wounded Veterans Need (by Sherri Snelling): Rosalinda “Rosie” Babin has always seen the glass as half full, and says she lives with “an attitude of gratitude.” In 2001, she and husband, Alain, were happily preparing to become empty-nesters in their Austin, Texas, home. Their son, Alan, Jr., who goes by “Doc,” had just graduated college. Their daughter, Christy, was about to graduate from high school. Alain, a police commander, and Rosie, an accountant, were former high-school sweethearts and U.S. Army veterans who had “date nights” every Wednesday and took ballroom dancing classes together. But 9/11 changed everything. After the 2001 attack, Doc enlisted in the Army, eventually becoming a medic with the 82nd Airborne division. “I reacted with a mixture of pride and fear,” Rosie says. “In truth I wanted to hug him and wring his neck at the same time.” She knew her son’s military experience would be different from her and Alain’s peacetime service. Doc was going to war. ... Read the whole story.

Large Numbers of Veterans Are Malnourished (by Bob Blancato): Veterans may face higher risks of post-traumatic stress disorder, certain cancers, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, gastrointestinal disorders and chronic fatigue syndrome. We must target threats to older veterans’ health, including malnutrition — which can be a result of any of these conditions ... Read the whole story.

The Tears They Cry: Women Veterans and PTSD (by Joan Cook): Approximately 7,500 American women served during the Vietnam era. Many, like Marsha, were nurses, but some filled other clerical or personnel positions. While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been well-studied among men who served in Vietnam, the women who served during that time have been relatively neglected. ... Read the whole story.

For Veterans, the Scourge of Suicide (by Doug Bradley) When I was passing through Iowa recently, I overheard a couple of locals talking about an Iraq War vet from Des Moines named Richard Miles. As a veteran myself (from the Vietnam War), I eavesdropped, only to realize that Richard Miles’s story was one of those tragic tales I didn’t want to hear, but one that’s being told far too often. I learned more details after Googling “Richard Miles Iowa.” News reports told me that he'd suffered from PTSD, anxiety and insomnia. He had entered the VA Hospital in Des Moines on Feb. 15, telling the staff there, "I need help," according to hospital records obtained by CNN. Five days later, the 40-year-old father was found in the woods with no jacket and no shoes, having consumed a deadly amount of sleeping pills. He died of exposure. My heart aches when I think of veterans like Richard Miles, who've given up all hope and turned to suicide. ... Read the whole story.

Veterans Day Advice and Support

The Long-term Care Benefit Many Veterans Are Missing Out On (by Joan Lunden):  The Veterans Aid & Attendance Pensions Benefit,  or “A&A benefit,” provides up to $1,794 per month to a veteran, $1,153 to a surviving spouse or $2,127 to a couple. The money, which is tax-free, can be used for in-home care, board and care, an assisted living community or a private-pay nursing home... Read the whole story.

Retirement Planning Advice for Vietnam Vets (by Richard Eisenberg): Since it’s Veterans Day, I thought it would be a good time to speak with an expert on retirement planning for Vietnam vets. Many of them, of course, are either getting close to retiring or are already in retirement. I talked with Carlos Perez, assistant secretary at the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA), the longest-standing U.S. not-for-profit association for veterans and their families. Perez spent 26 years in active duty Army leadership, with deployments to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. ... Read the whole story.

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