Memorial Day provides us a chance to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice many Americans have made in protecting our freedoms and our way of life. There are about 21 million veterans in the United States and over 700,000 in Georgia alone. Throughout our history, from the Civil War through Operation Enduring Freedom, over a million people have died in defense of America and we would be remiss to go without remembering them and honoring them.
But this also provides a time to talk about our national priorities and policies. Were some of the sacrifices, particularly those who have recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan, worth the costs? Thousands have died and even more return home only to deal with injuries, mental health issues, a poor job market and other factors that make returning to civilian life challenging. Considering the latest VA scandal, are we doing enough to help our veterans? In 2010 alone, 22 veterans committed suicide each day, representing more than the number who lost their lives on the battlefields.
Going forward, President Obama will be laying out a new foreign policy agenda this week as he speaks to graduates of West Point. He makes this speech amidst a time of heightened foreign tensions: Ukraine and Russia are battling over sovereignty, the battle over chemical weapons wages on in Syria, an Iranian nuclear deal is unraveling, China is threatening its neighbors in the South China Sea, the military just engaged in a coup in Thailand, rebel separatists have once again sparked tensions in Mali. As we move forward with our foreign policy, we must be diligent and clear in defining our principles. When are we willing to ask Americans to put their lives on the line and for what purpose?
The Challenge in Obama’s West Point Speech
5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE VA SCANDAL
The Veterans Scandal Is Only the Start
Georgia And the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
State Benefits for Georgia Veterans
Census Bureau: Veterans Facts 2013
CRC: American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics
Study: High suicide rates for soldiers in, out of war
PTSD Symptom Checklist
EMPLOYMENT SITUATION OF VETERANS — 2013