Why Thanking our Veterans is so Hard


While we often want to thank veterans for their service, we have also failed in many ways to provide the exact support they would need. 

Thanking veterans, particularly in the United States, has become as big a part of our national culture as baseball or apple pie (or football and pecan, if that’s more geographically appropriate).  We see giant flags adorn NFL stadiums, some of us to this day have yellow ribbon attire or leave our porchlights lit green, and most news organizations will print lists of local businesses offering their support and services at reduced or even free rates to servicemembers and their families. 

Thanking veterans has become big business in the US.

As appreciative as some of us must feel by the outward displays of patriotism offered, thanking veterans can be a difficult thing for some veterans to receive, and for many different reasons. 

Our experiences, whether we served overseas or not, vary wildly.  Our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors that I’ve had the honor of serving with will have their own viewpoints on the matter, and their viewpoints are no better or worse, no more right or wrong; they are personal. 

At present, there are roughly 17.4 million veterans of the armed services in the United States.  Over 40,000 of them remain homeless.  Over one million experience mental health symptoms in connection with their services, and nearly that same number experience substance use issues. 

While we often want to thank veterans for their service, we have also failed in many ways to provide the exact support they would need. 

This Veterans Day, in addition to thanking those veterans in our lives the way we know, I ask that we take a moment, as caregivers and professionals in the helping community, to reflect on those of my fellow veterans who may not have access, or be able to access, some of the Veteran’s Day offerings afforded to us.

Men and women who deserve just as much thanks, but who face barriers not just in receiving a discounted meal, but barriers across many dimensions. And I urge you, if you feel thankful for those men and women, to do what you can to express that thanks to those who won’t hear it or see it.

One of the most important messages I’ve heard in the past is this: if you’ve met a veteran, you’ve met a single veteran

While we will likely always view one another as family, and even dress alike on occasion, like families everywhere we have different viewpoints on everything.  The one viewpoint shared among all veterans, though, is that we will never leave one of us behind. 

David Schwenk, SGT (Retired) – 173rd Airborne, US Army

SouthLight Adult Outpatient Services Counselor

If you know some who needs help, please tell them about the mental health and substance use services available at SouthLight. Visit our website Resources page to learn who to call and how to get started.