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Let's be honest. Your 'support' is killing us

I propose abandoning the phrase “Support the Troops” in favor of “Support Your Community.” Every American community has devoted millions of dollars to fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we also devote our children.

As a vet and Red Wing native, I struggle to understand how the community that raised me appears oblivious about its role in creating the reality of the last decade for veterans while failing to address their ongoing needs domestically.

I was an Army diver from 2006-10 with one tour to Iraq/Kuwait. I find most of the slogans and marketing campaigns about the troops to be insults. For instance, “Committed to Hiring Veterans.” A more honest tagline would read, “Committed to the appearance that we consider that the values that allow service members to accomplish extraordinary acts of valor in the service of their country like: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless-service, honor, integrity, and personal courage prepare a returning veteran well to apply for and be considered for a job paying minimum wage.”

But let’s go further. Let’s talk about how many veterans feel that killing themselves is a better decision than dealing with the reality of their situation. Because right now, more U.S. forces have died by suicide than have perished in combat.

So don’t be fooled. Your ribbon is lying. We are obviously not supporting our troops.

Veteran suicide rates occur not only because of ill-equipped and underfunded VA services, but because of a serious and deadly disconnect between the level of sacrifice and service vet embodies and the level most of the civilian population unknowingly represents. And it looks absolutely hollow.

"When they leave the service, veterans are catapulted from an intense brother-and-sisterhood where the most serious issues imaginable are confronted every day, and plopped down into a society where they no longer have the comfort and purpose of being part of something larger than themselves. In a perverse way, their reaction to civilian life can be seen as a form of sanity: too many of the rest of us have slouched from active citizenship to passive couch-potato-hood. Many returning veterans find that passivity and isolation intolerable.”  Joe Klein – “Can Service Save US,” Time Magazine, June 20, 2013

So displaying the Support the Troops yellow ribbon on your car or mailbox isn’t support in and of itself. It doesn’t represent your commitment to helping your neighbor’s son, who thankfully made it home from Afghanistan but whose transition to civilian life is just beginning. It doesn’t convey to a vet that you acknowledge your responsibility as a citizen to own the actions that your elected officials took on your behalf.

Come down to First Lutheran Church 7 p.m. Thursday Aug. 15 to participate in a good-faith effort to support our veteran brothers, sisters, neighbors and dads and truly build a healthy community to welcome our soldiers home to.