En español | “We won’t come back ’til it’s over over there” was the vow of American armed forces as they departed for Europe in 1917 to join our allies in fighting World War I. It was over on Nov. 11, 1918, and beginning in 1921, our nation has set aside the anniversary of the armistice ending “the war to end all wars” as the day we pay special tribute to America’s veterans. Every year at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, we stop what we are doing and say thank you to our veterans.
AARP is highlighting our celebration this year with an AARP Studios-produced one-hour television special on the American Heroes Channel. In The Battle I’ll Never Forget, three critical battles in American history — in 1944, 1965 and 2005 — are brought back to life by soldiers who survived them. Check your local listings and don’t miss it!
Unfortunately, for many veterans and their families, the practical benefits of this era of good feeling have yet to reach their doorsteps. After the battles were over and the last salutes were snapped, many veterans returned home — where they and their families have faced new challenges that often have proved more frustrating than those they faced while on active duty.
We’ve come to realize that many, if not most civilians just simply do not know or understand what military personnel have experienced. And I’m not just talking about combat situations. I’m talking about the whole military experience.
I’m proud to say AARP’s efforts to find out what we need to know about veterans and their families have moved forward in leaps and bounds in the last couple of years. To better understand and address the special challenges faced by military and veteran caregivers, we joined the National Coalition for Military Caregivers, a broad coalition of leading public, private, nonprofit, labor and faith organizations being assembled by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to address the gaps in support.
This year we’ve sought the views and ideas of veterans at various meetings, forums and other events across America. We’ve asked them, “What do we need to know? What do we need to do? Where do we need to go?” They’ve offered us earfuls of useful thoughts and ideas, and we’ve listened closely.
We’ve learned that service members and their families all share a culture that is unlike our civilian society. They live on bases where the mission is always central and shared by everyone. They identify as one and experience a special structure and closeness that we don’t see elsewhere.
When many veterans and their families separate from the military, they’re on their own for the first time. They may need assistance in obtaining services that most civilian adults have dealt with for years and to which they don’t give a second thought.
What has opened our eyes — and our hearts — perhaps more than anything else have been the pleas to consider and act on behalf of the spouses and widows of older veterans, many of whom are caregivers. This is an area we are looking at very closely.
AARP is strongly committed to increasing our involvement on issues affecting veterans and their families of all generations at the national, state and community levels. They’ve done so much to serve us. Now it’s our turn to serve them. Enjoy your Veterans Day!