Veterans Day 2018

PETER WALDNER ILLUSTRATION

Sunday marks exactly 100 years since the end of World War I, the war, it was said, to end all wars. But the armistice signed at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918 was, in effect, a cease-fire that lasted 20 years until the same warring parties resumed the carnage.

Originally known as Armistice Day and observed annually by Americans on November 11, it was declared a national holiday by Congress in 1938. In 1954, President Eisenhower officially changed the name to Veterans Day to honor those living and dead who served in uniform during times of war or peace.

Veterans are in the news this year for many good reasons, including the number who ran for public office, a spike in veteran candidates not seen since the end of World War II.

But other news of those who volunteered to serve their country is not good at all, with suicide and drug overdoses — as well as alcohol abuse — continuing to be some of the most common killers of veterans. Statistics have not been updated, but the latest numbers from 2016 had an average of 20 veterans taking their own lives every day.

In addition, Military Times reported that homelessness among veterans increased in 2017 for the first time in seven years, and many more are living in poverty.

This is a national disgrace. The leadership of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to their credit, is aware of the situation and is working hard to reverse these abysmal trends. It’s been a rocky road, however, when a completely unqualified candidate, the chief White House physician Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, was tapped to take over the department.

He was forced to remove his name after allegations surfaced of drinking on duty and mishandling drug prescriptions. Other attempts by the Trump administration to stock the leadership of the department with campaign aides was farcical, to say the least.

Fairly typical, all in all, of what’s coming out of the executive branch.

But in September, finally, V.A. Secretary Robert Wilkie promised “customer service, stability and quality care for veterans” as his top priorities in an address to the American Legion’s 100th National Convention in Minneapolis.

Mr. Wilkie is a respected ex-Pentagon official who seems up to the task of guiding the department in a direction that will serve those who served their country.

Shelter Island is fortunate to have veterans among us, who give their time and effort to make this a better place and who provide inspiration to all of us.

Come to the Veterans Day ceremonies on Monday, bring your family, and remember all those who wore their country’s uniform, and those among them who need our help.

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