Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Veterans Day: Honoring our Veterans

Published: November 16, 2015
Veteran's Day

San Diego is home to the nation's largest concentration of military personnel.  More than 15,000 active duty service member’s transition from active duty service in San Diego each year and more than half of those transitioning plan to stay in San Diego, which is also the number one destination for veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. There are more veterans in San Diego than there are active duty personnel. More than 240,000 veterans reside here in America's Finest City. With Veterans Day approaching, we should take a moment to reflect on the history of the day and the service of our fellow citizens, as well as the needs they have upon returning home.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day on November 11, 1919. In proclaiming the holiday, he said, "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride [and with gratitude] in the heroism of those who died in the country's service.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I. On May 13, 1938, Congress approved making Armistice Day a legal holiday to be celebrated each year on November 11th, marking it “[a] day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”  On June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of “all wars”. And later on October 8th, of the same year President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" officially changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

Even though most Americans are probably unaware of how this holiday came to be, we still somehow understand the important purpose of Veterans Day, which is to celebrate and honor our veterans for their bravery and willingness to serve. Veterans Day is also a day to recognize the sacrifice of spouses, children and family members of soldiers on active duty or who have been lost. And while we remember our veterans each year with parades and free breakfasts all across the nation, as a country we are still struggling with how honor our soldiers with more than mere symbolism. Homelessness, lack of adequate mental health care, depression, PTSD, alcohol and substance abuse, jobs reentry programs are just some of the areas where resources are desperately needed.  In addition, because of our country’s history of non-inclusion of women, persons of color, and homosexuals, not all soldiers are equally honored and recognized.

In 2014, President Barack Obama honored Army veterans of African American, Hispanic and Jewish heritage who were bypassed because of discrimination during World War II, The Korean War, and The Vietnam War. Only three of the recipients are living. Under his Administration, President Obama has made leaps and bounds in allowing LGBT Americans to openly serve in the military.  Our military is diverse and soldiers and veterans will have diverse needs; however, at times they can find it difficult to locate resources specific to their needs. Women veterans are increasingly represented in the numbers of homeless persons. According to the U.S Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the reason for this is that women face different challenges from their male counterparts when returning home from war. Single parenthood, raising children on their own, PTSD resulting from the stress of war, injury, and possible military sexual trauma put women veterans at greater risk of becoming homeless without early intervention. Thomas Jefferson School of Law (“TJSL”) has resources available for veteran students and does important work on behalf of local veterans.

TJSL’s Student Veterans Association (SVA) chapter organizes various events and networks with professional groups such as San Diego's Veterans Bar Association. Contact SVA at sva@tjsl.edu for more information or to get involved. TJSL has a clinical program available for students to participate in that allows them to provide limited legal assistance, as well as full service legal representation to the residents and alumni of Veterans Village of San Diego. For more information regarding this clinic, please visit: http://www.tjsl.edu/clinics/veterans-clinic. Finally, there is a monthly Veterans Self-Help Clinic that provides low to moderate-income veterans with limited legal assistance. This clinic is run by volunteer licensed attorneys and law students and meets every third Wednesday of the month. For more information on this please visit: http://www.tjsl.edu/clinics/veterans-self-help-clinic.

VA San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS) is dedicated to ensuring all Veterans are treated fairly and receive the best quality care regardless of race, origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation. VASDHS) is committed to providing inclusive, comprehensive, patient-centered care to all Veterans including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Veterans and provides a list of providers/employees who have been certified by the VASDHS LGBT Work Group as VASDHS LGBT Experts as they have completed the identified training requirements in LGBT culturally competent health care. VASDHS provides comprehensive health care services to address the unique needs of women Veterans.  Primary care including: Breast cancer screening, mammography and treatment, cervical cancer screening and treatment, contraceptive counseling and management as well as mental health care including sexual assault trauma services. For more information please visit their website at http://www.sandiego.va.gov/services/index.asp